jacobs post-mortem

It’s funny how when you read enough by a writer, you feel like you get to know that person (even though he or she is most likely completely unaware of your existence). But here’s the thing; although you can learn a great deal about a person from his or her writing, there are inevitably gaps in that knowledge that, as a reader, you fill in, consciously or not.

Which is why when A.J. Jacobs began his lecture last night, the sound of his voice took me entirely by surprise. Apparently, as I read two of his books, both of which are written in the first person, I created some sort of expectation as to what his voice would sound like. And his actual voice sounded completely different.

The voice wasn’t the only surprise. Jacobs was — and I don’t know how else to say it — a little geekier than I would have imagined. (This is not a judgement; someone who, when told to go play outside as a child, would carry her book outside and sit in a tree to read has no right to knock anyone else for geekiness.) It makes sense — I mean, no one without some element of geek commits to reading the entire encyclopedia. And he’s fairly up-front about some of his geek-ish compulsions in his books. But I suppose it’s that Esquire Magzine editor credential that throws you off the trail.

However, once I’d gotten past those minor surprises, Jacobs’ lecture was entirely enjoyable. He was witty, funny, insightful, and self-deprecating — just as he is in his books. He spoke about his year of following the Bible as literally as possible openly, discussing the aspects he found rewarding (giving thanks, resting on the Sabbath) as well as those he just didn’t get (apparently, there’s a search for a blemish-free red cow that is quite the obsession for some). It’s clear that this project wasn’t just for the paycheck; he was earnest and sincere as he spoke about the changes this brought to his life, and though he still defines himself as an agnostic, he considers himself to be a reverent agnostic, meaning he’s come to understand the sacredness of faith and religion, even if he’s still not entirely sure what his spiritual beliefs are.

My husband and I spoke to him briefly after the lecture as he signed books for us, and he was just as nice in person as he appeared to be on stage. So now, I can not only be confident that some of my knowledge gaps about who A.J. Jacobs is have been filled, but that he, at least, knows (however vaguely) that I do exist.

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~ by Molly on March 27, 2009.

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