Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. -- Alex Boese

My regular patrons were very impressed and surprised when they heard that I was reading non-fiction for once.  Then I told them what it was about.  Their surprise evaporated, and I once again regained my usual position as Laughingstock Librarian of Kennebunk.

But come ON.  How could I have possibly resisted?  The title alone would have done it, but the cover art sealed the deal.  Hippo Eats Dwarf is hugely entertaining, but also serves as a reminder that not everything you see, hear, or read is true.  Anything can be faked.

While this is technically a grown-up book, there are probably some middle school boys out there who will read it compulsively.  (If some savvy librarian gives it to them, that is…)  It can be read in bits and pieces, it’s a great one for people with short attention spans. (Or for bathroom reading, for those of you who do that.)

It’s split up into 16 chapters, with titles ranging from Birth to Food to eBay to Advertising to Politics to Death.  Boese covers the Bonsai Kitten Hoax, tells anecdotes about cashiers that have accepted two-hundred dollar bills, explains what emails NOT to forward (any that contain the directive to “Forward this to everyone you know”), and tells the infamous story about Disney murdering lemmings:

The most infamous phony nature footage appeared in the 1958 Disney documentary White Wilderness As part of its presentation of Artic wildlife, the film showed lemmings jumping into a river to commit suicide, as legend has it they do.  Except that lemmings don’t really commit suicide: they sensibly avoid large bodies of water.  So to get the shot the filmmakers had to round up some lemmings and herd them off a cliff.  PETA would have been horrified.  As a result of this faked scene, lemming suicide became an accepted fact in popular culture for decades afterward.

Although I adored the Food chapter, Boese did make me decide to avoid chicken nuggets for the rest of my life (or at least for a while):

Regulators in the United Kingdom recently became concerned when they detected beef and pork proteins in samples of imported nuggets.  Unscrupulous manufacturers were buying cheap chicken meat and bulking it up by injecting it with water and group-up parts—including skin and bones—of old cows and pigs.  In some cases consumers were lucky if their chicken nuggets were 10 percent chicken meat.

He made me reminisce about my college years by reminding me of the Breatharians  “…who claim to subsist on light and air.”  (The kid that passage brought to mind wasn’t considering becoming a Breatharian, thank goodness, but he was considering becoming a “Fruitarian”.  According to him, they subsisted on fruit that had already fallen from trees, because picking it would harm the trees.  Yes, I also hope that he was joking.  But I don't think so.  I knew some strange people in college.)

Man Eats Dwarf allows for a decent amount of audience participation – there are a plethora of website addresses included – try PetsOrFood.com, bigredhair.com/boilerplate (which famously duped Chris Elliott not so long ago), and EatBabies.com.

Alex Boese is also the author of The Museum of Hoaxes (which I am totally going to read) and the creator of the website of the same name.