A.J. Jacobs is one interesting guy and his books prove it. You know the expression "Write what
you know?" Jacobs does that, well, sort of.. actually a better way of putting it is he gives himself a challenge and brings the reader along for the ride.
In The Know-It-All he describes his endeavor to read the multi-volume Encyclopedia Brittanica to become, well, someone who knows everything. He talked to me about that project with this interview
For the Year of Living Biblically he tried to follow as many rules of the bible as possible, though he did wimp out on a few like stoning people. The book is both funny and powerful and a great read. We talked about that one here and here.
He describes in this web video interview those projects as well as his newest one, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.
For his new book he tries different experiments including varying approaches to life from one where he outsourced not only his job but also tried having someone else - in India - argue with his wife, deal with his bosses, even read to his child. For another chapter he is
radical honesty about everything that crosses his mind and, yes, that just about as bad as one would imagine. And those
are just two of the more than ten chapters and adventures he describes.
We talked about his books, especially the new one, in a two part interview of which this is the first part.
What is the status of the movie version of the Year of Living Biblically and how do you feel about the idea of a movie being made of it?
It's 'in development,' but who knows if it'll ever get made. That's up to God and Paramount Pictures, not necessarily in that order. They did attach an actor to star in it. His name? Marlon Wayans. I went out to lunch with him and had a great time. But if you look at our pictures side by side, you could probably – and I'm going out on a limb here – tell us apart.
Have you always been funny? Do you think you're funnier on the page than you are in person? I ask because I think I am and we're both writers
My mother claims that when I was two, I hid my bottle and made everyone look for it even though I knew where it was and was giggling the whole time. Frankly, not my best work. Kind of hacky, if you ask me. In general, I'm probably more articulate on the page than I am in person. I'm certainly a better debater on the page. It's much harder to sputter on the page.
If you had the woman you oursourced your life to write that chapter how would it differ from what you wrote?
I did end up outsourcing the writing of the last part of that chapter. And my outsourcer did a great job. If I'd outsourced the whole thing, it might have had more of an Indian tone to it, perhaps more references to Bollywood's Amitabh Bachchan.
Were there any experiments rejected by and/or others, i.e. becoming pregnant or having your body waxed?
Some readers have suggested that I do every position in the Kama Sutra. My wife put the kibosh on that one. Which is fine by me. I'm not sure I'm limber enough for the reverse crane. I also wanted to do an experiment where I tested how technology has affected our relationships. I wanted to spend a month with no face to face contact – only interacting through email, IM, Facebook, etc. But again, my wife vetoed that one. She said, our niece's bat mitzvah is coming up, and you're not going attend via Skype and have a monitor at the table. You're going to show up.
What do your children - how old are they now? - make of his dad and all of these odd jobs? Seems like it'd be hard to take you to school and explain what you do.
I actually have three sons (I had twins during the year of living biblically; just following the 'be fruitful and multiply' commandment). The oldest is 5. The interesting thing is, I don't think they realize that their dad does something unusual for a living. It seems they think everyone's dad pretends to be George Washington as their job.
Were you really a former Entertainment Weekly writer? Somehow I missed that piece of info before. Do you have a link to that piece they did with your wife where she got to dish about her thoughts on your books?
I was, for about five years. Here you go!
Is there any job you refused to do?
I don't think there's a job I refused to do. My first job out of college was working for a tiny newspaper in California. I remember I had to write a lot of stories on sewage. One involved a community that believed the local tap water was causing their poops to be fluorescent, and invited me to see.