HODGMINA

IS COMING SOON

by John Hodgman

Here is something true that I have observed regarding people who have written books: their clothes fit well. They seem relaxed and happy as if they are thinking, well, at least I got that done. At least I wrote a book.

They are not an anxiety-ridden, badly tailored nervous wreck like me, for example, or all of you.

But as everyone knows, writing a book is difficult and requires five things: 1) the willingness to endure solitude; 2) the belief that the world cares about what you have to say; 3) a large desk in a quiet room of your own in which to chase your demons (preferably a circular room, so that the demons have no place to hide); 4) special stationery with pictures of typewriters and/or quills on top; and 5) a subject. Unfortunately, I have long lacked all of these things, except for the circular room.

But now I am a father. And thus, as is required by law, I will now devote my creative life solely to writing about my daughter, how brilliant and beautiful she is, and how her naïve wisdom and amusing antics have changed the way I look at life.

Everyone, I am sure, will find this fascinating.

And so I am pleased to announce that I am nearing completion of my first book, which will collect my wacky anecdotes of fatherhood, touching tales of my daughter’s babyhood, and all the charming wit and wisdom of me at my finest.

I have not settled on a title yet. But like every good writer, I have a lot of ideas on how the jacket should look.

It will have a picture of me on it. I will be dressed casually, maybe wearing a sweater. And I will be smiling with bemused exhaustion. And I will probably be touching my chin with two fingers, as if to say “I am contemplating the unique brilliance and beauty of my infant daughter, and soon you will be doing the same.” There will not be a picture of my daughter on the cover. I would like her to have some semblance of a childhood before she inevitably becomes a famous public personality like her father; so to protect her privacy, I will refer to my daughter herewith only as “Hodgmina.”

It will be a very readable book, full of stories told in a conversational style, and often in sentence fragments, as if I am right there in the room with you. I hope you will not find this spooky.

To give you an idea of how this will work, I would like to provide a few short chapters to you now from my new book, tentatively titled either Hodgmina: American Baby, American Life or A Child Called It or What I Have Learned in Four Months of Being a Parent.

This from the introduction, “Why Children Are Better Than Monkeys”:

Children are better than monkeys for several reasons. One reason is that they are not yammering away in sign language all the time. Before the age of two, many of them do not even know the English language. The other reasons that children are better than monkeys are secret, but you can read about them in my book.

This is from Chapter 12, “The Limits of Children”:

I have learned that newborn infants roll their eyes around and move their heads and their arms in short jerky spasms. And if you home school them, they will stay this way forever. But this makes it difficult to train them in fencing or bartending or any of the other great defensive arts.

The is the entirety of Chapter 19, “What About Badminton?”:

When I say that Hodgmina is brilliant, and when I tell people about her guest sermon last Sunday at St. John the Divine, and her surprising skills at badminton, people want to know: Is she a child prodigy? I reply: I hope not. There is too much pressure put on children. They should have time to explore and enjoy the world as a child, and not be forced into the highly competitive badminton circuit. Unless the child really wants that, and has signaled as much by crying or burping.

Basically, it comes down to this: Child prodigies are fine, but I could do without all the violins. If you have ever been alone at night in Penn Station, barefoot, with only a sword cane and a half empty bottle of brandy, and suddenly, swiftly, with ninja-like stealth, a group of child prodigies surround you with violin cases, you will know what I mean.

This is from Chapter 47, “Some Children Cannot Walk”:

I have learned that many children who are only four months old have difficulty walking. This makes it nearly impossible to send them on even the simplest errands. For example, I recently asked Hodgmina to go to the pharmacy and get daddy’s special medicine. She replied by jerking her hands around a lot and then farting. I explained that it was OK, the pharmacist knows daddy very well, and if the pharmacist is in the back sleeping on his little army cot again, just go behind the counter and take whatever you need. Then she started to cry. I never could bear a woman’s tears. So I said: fine. I instead wrote a note to the pharmacist, pinned it to Hodgmina’s Gap brand cowboy shirt, and handed her to a passing vagrant who I hoped knew the way.

This is the entirety of Chapter 82, “Dress Up Time!”:

It is hard to find fishing waders or a suit of armor that will fit a four month human child.

Luckily, children love hand-me-downs. You can give them all the clothing that you don’t wear anymore, like my Gap brand cowboy shirt. Although the fact in this case that I rarely wore my Gap brand cowboy shirt, and I had often found myself wondering why I ever bought it. But now it is hers, like so many of my old shirts and hats and safety goggles and cufflinks. Hodgmina loves the cufflinks, especially after I taught her how handy it is to put two or three in your mouth and run around the living room.

But it’s not just clothes. You can also give children other things you don’t have use for anymore, such as your stovetop smoker, most of your belts, as well as whatever residual knowledge you may have of American history, and your optimism. I used to believe, for example, that you had to spend money to make money. This is obviously not true. But now, Hodgmina believes it. And it is charming.

Hodgmina was just discussing that the other day. I was quite moved, and I looked in her eyes as they rolled about in her head and said: Hodgmina, for the sake of our planet’s future, I hope you never lose your childlike idealism. But at the same time, I hope it does not get in my way.

I hope you will buy my book when I finish it. That is all.

John Hodgman lives in New York, where he hosts the Little Gray Book Lectures, more or less monthly.

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SEPTEMBER 2003
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