Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: College in a Nutskull by Anders Henriksson

College in a Nutskull is the follow up to Professor Anders Henriksson's Ignorance Is Blitz.  It takes a humorous look at the college experience, featuring clips of actual student writing from essays, exams, and even e-mails and texts sent to professors.  Henriksson gathered these nuggets of hilarity from his own students, but friends and colleagues also have contributed to the collection.  These students hail from the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and it's a good thing for them that they remain anonymous.

The book is spiral bound with pages lined like an actual notebook, and it is divided by subjects, ranging from Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Political Science to English Literature, Music, Art, and Economics.  And like most of the notebooks I took from class to class, there are doodles in the margins.

I didn't know what to expect when I opened this book.  I hadn't even expected the book to arrive on my doorstep.  So I casually flipped through it, but once I realized how funny it was, I couldn't put it down.  I seriously read the entire book out loud to my husband, laughing so hard I was crying and even gasping for air.

Here are a few of my favorites quotes (and keep in mind that the spelling errors are not mine):

"Creationism is the belief system of people who like to go out and create things.  Polo Picaso, for example, would be one of your creationists." (from Religious Studies, page 8)

"Some people do not cope well.  This copulation problem can lead to heroine or alcohol abuse.  Alcoholism may involve drinking."  (from Psychology, page 20)

"Shakespeare won the Nobel prize on several occasions.  This makes you a nobel and involves being nightied by the Queen.  It is very cool that Shakespeare decided to set Richard II in Nazi Germany."  (from English Literature, page 43)

"World War II began when Hitler decided that he would like to visit Paris.  Suddenly it was VD Day in Europe.  Hitler, who had begun as a painter, wound up painting himself into a corner."  (from The Modern World, page 84)

While a lot could be said about Henriksson's observations that today's students often are taught to pass standarized tests and have short attention spans because they are tied to their iPods and cell phones, he points out that these bloopers amount to only a handful of students.  I must admit that I refused to think about the book as a statement about the education system and embraced it in the spirit in which it was intended.  College in a Nutskull is one of those books that offers hours of fun, and you can open it up randomly when you need a gut-busting laugh.

Disclosure: I received a copy of College in a Nutskull from Workman Publishing for review purposes.  I am an Amazon affiliate.

© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.


Sullivan McPig said...

This sounds like a really fun book!
Thanks for posting those quotes!

Blodeuedd said...

Loved the quotes, I now see why this book was so funny

Unknown said...

Those examples are hilarious! I definitely remember the type of people that would have wrote stuff like that. :)

Dana said...

This sounds hilarious! Thanks for the review!

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this book as well. I'll be reviewing it soon!

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book, too. I'll have my review up Saturday and I chose one of the same quotes as you!

Carrie said...

I had the exact same experience with this book. It was unexpected - and unexpectedly HILARIOUS! I, too, was reading aloud sections to my husband with tears (of laughter) streaming down my face.

But I had a hard time getting away from what it said about the education system. =)

At any rate though - it *was* funny.

Anna said...

Thank you all for taking time to read my review and leave a comment. If you think those quotes are funny, you definitely should give the book a try...wait until you see some of the others. Hilarious!

Troy Simpson said...

To me, "College in a Nutskull" is a disappointment. It is more a book of silly mistakes than it is a book of funny bloopers.

To be funny, bloopers require more than just mistakes of fact.

What, for example, is funny about these student mistakes in "College in a Nutskull"? ...

"The Prime Minister heads the Church of England" (p 94);

"American women won the right to vote in 1973" (p 131);

"Common law is for the common people" (p 92).

A "blooper", in contrast to a simple "mistake", usually has a double meaning, or reveals an accidental insight, or innocently uncovers some kind of uncomfortable truth.

Yet few of the specimens in "College in a Nutskull" contain these added elements.

As a result, I found little to laugh at in "College in a Nutskull".

Overall, I prefer the more subtle, more insightful bloopers in a book like "Anguished English" by Richard Lederer or one of the classic "Boners" books.

Anna said...

Troy: Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I went over and read your review. I guess I didn't think there was much of a difference between "silly mistakes" and "funny bloopers." I can see how some of the other books you mention might be funnier. And while I agree that not everything in College in a Nutskull is funny, most of them made me laugh. I guess I just didn't take the book seriously and started reading in the hopes of getting some laughs out of it, and I did.

Troy Simpson said...

Hi Anna. I have just read Henriksson's earlier compilation, Ignorance Is Blitz.

I think Ignorance Is Blitz (originally published as Non Campus Mentis) is a much better -- ie, funnier -- compilation than College In A Nutskull.

Here are some examples from Ignorance Is Blitz of bloopers having a double-meaning:

"The invention of the sex tent helped to determine place and orientation at sea" (p 47).

"Francis Drake was permitted by Queen Elizabeth to sail the seas and find illegal things to do with the Spanish" (p 48).

"Oliver Cromwell solved this and other problems by removing prominent things from people who disagreed with him" (p 59).

And in the following examples, there is a humorous absurdity:

"[Roman] Senators wore purple tubas as a sign of respect" (p 18).

"Two hundred years of rule by the Tarts explains why Russia became so backward" (p 37).

"The modern piano replaced the clavicle as instrument of choice" (p 66).

I point these bloopers out just to highlight the contrast between what I regard as "true bloopers" and "mere mistakes".

To me, true bloopers are much funnier than mere mistakes. Then again, humor is a subjective thing.

Anna said...

Troy: Humor definitely is subjective. And thanks for letting me know about the first book. I'll keep it in mind.