Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman

Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches

Although his career as a bestselling author and on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart was founded on fake news and invented facts, in 2016 that routine didn't seem as funny to John Hodgman anymore. Everyone is doing it now. Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privilege...

Title:Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches
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Edition Language:English

Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches Reviews

  • Kazen

    Do you like John Hodgman? Then you'll like this book. Go get it!

    You've probably heard of and like Hodgman already via This American Life, the "I'm a PC" Mac ads, or his podcast Judge John Hodgman. I was lucky enough to meet him at a book signing years ago and can confirm that he is a stellar human being. (He signed my book "I know you are not a villain", so it must be so.)

    I am I biased? Sure. But his awesome human-ness is what comes out in this memoir essay collect

    Do you like John Hodgman? Then you'll like this book. Go get it!

    You've probably heard of and like Hodgman already via This American Life, the "I'm a PC" Mac ads, or his podcast Judge John Hodgman. I was lucky enough to meet him at a book signing years ago and can confirm that he is a stellar human being. (He signed my book "I know you are not a villain", so it must be so.)

    I am I biased? Sure. But his awesome human-ness is what comes out in this memoir essay collection. And first up is that he recognizes his white, upper middle class privilege and calls himself out throughout the book.

    The essays range over the course of Hodgman's life but concentrate on his second act, namely being a middle-aged, once-kinda-famous dad who vacations in Maine. Come for the stories, stay for the amazing writing, humor, and insight. It's very Ira Glass-y in that bits of story are followed by pulling back to get a wider view.

    A turn away from his books of fake facts, the essays of

    are funny and earnest and make you glad that there's a guy like John Hodgman out there, sharing his thoughts with the world. A must read for Jh fans as well as a starting place for those unfamiliar.

  • Pop Bop

    He's Such A Tease

    Like Calvin Trillin, (who may be a bit more urbane and "citified" compared to Hodgman's more rueful suburban everyman persona), John Hodgman often feels like he's ever so gently teasing the reader, even as he amuses.

    In this collection Hodgman declares that he's pretty much burned out and used up, such that these pieces are sadly all that he has left. Maybe it's time for a retrospective and a little bit of a summing up. There's that tease, and a slyly false self-deprecating air t

    He's Such A Tease

    Like Calvin Trillin, (who may be a bit more urbane and "citified" compared to Hodgman's more rueful suburban everyman persona), John Hodgman often feels like he's ever so gently teasing the reader, even as he amuses.

    In this collection Hodgman declares that he's pretty much burned out and used up, such that these pieces are sadly all that he has left. Maybe it's time for a retrospective and a little bit of a summing up. There's that tease, and a slyly false self-deprecating air that lets the reader in on the joke and feels oh so inviting. Even when Hodgman is being a bit pointed or edgy, and even when he's dismissing or mocking something or someone you might hold dear, he's still, well, friendly.

    None of these articles gets up on a high horse or goes in for a kill. This is much more thoughtful and gentle stuff, (often with Hodgman the butt of the humor), but that doesn't mean it doesn't resonate and it doesn't mean it doesn't make a point. Even when he's just being a husband or a father or an only child Hodgman can pluck a nerve or point out a few sticky truths.

    You will get semi-autobiographical essays about middle age, fatherhood, growing up an only child, and, famously, the "painful beaches" of Maine. Apparently, some of this material is drawn from his comedy tour, "Vacationland". (BTW, Hodgman has said that his original title for the book was - "John Hodgman Tells Absolutely, Maybe Awfully True Stories as He Sprints Toward Death in Emotionally and Literally Cold Places." So, I guess that works as a summary of this book too.)

    But all of that aside, this is very, very funny and witty writing by someone who knows what he is doing and is in complete command of his craft. As you read, and savor, you are amused and also impressed. That is an admirable combination, and this is a wonderful find.

    (Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  • Cristina

    Former deranged millionaire John Hodgman has run out of fun false facts and has decided to instead to get very, very real. In a collection of essays that span his migratory patterns across New England, he has pieced together a deeply personal memoir from reflections on his life. We visit western Massachusetts to learn deference to The Dumpmen and the rock-stacking river witches: we travel to the cruel beaches of Maine to contemplate privilege, aging, and the craftsmanship of boats. As a follower

    Former deranged millionaire John Hodgman has run out of fun false facts and has decided to instead to get very, very real. In a collection of essays that span his migratory patterns across New England, he has pieced together a deeply personal memoir from reflections on his life. We visit western Massachusetts to learn deference to The Dumpmen and the rock-stacking river witches: we travel to the cruel beaches of Maine to contemplate privilege, aging, and the craftsmanship of boats. As a follower of his podcast, audiobooks and Netflix special -- this is the first time I've physically read something of his. If I can even call it reading, this memoir is so true to Hodgman's voice, I literally heard it in my head. A fun brand of deadpan humor that is both self-deprecating and sincere.

    At one point, in reference to therapy, he says,

    and I feel that it resonates the tone of the book as a whole. If writing up a memoir is what it takes to process one's existential dread from the relentless passage of time and the unruly nature of facial hair, then onward march, man. You're helping the rest of us feel less alone. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an entire drawer of mouse poop to continue to ignore.

    Note: This quote is from an Advance Reader Copy and may not be final.

  • Kathy

    Plainly put, John Hodgman's

    is great. It positively exudes Hodgman-yness. Yes, I had to check the cover repeatedly to make sure it hadn't grown an alarming goatee/mustache combination! Straight Talk: If you are a John Hodgman fan you will like this book; If you aren't, you wont. I am and I did and I regret nothing!

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I received an ARC of this book from Viking/Netgalley in exchange for an honest (though possibly biased) review.

  • Hannah

    John Hodgman gave me an ARC of his new book the other day at the library, and I pretty much immediately devoured it. I found it both genuinely funny and funnily genuine, and like the humor of his podcast that I very much enjoy, I thought its great honesty gave it real punch. Hodgman's observations about my home state, Maine, are insightful and relatable, and his owning up to his own privileged existence throughout the volume mirrors his admission of his experience as someone "from away," and mak

    John Hodgman gave me an ARC of his new book the other day at the library, and I pretty much immediately devoured it. I found it both genuinely funny and funnily genuine, and like the humor of his podcast that I very much enjoy, I thought its great honesty gave it real punch. Hodgman's observations about my home state, Maine, are insightful and relatable, and his owning up to his own privileged existence throughout the volume mirrors his admission of his experience as someone "from away," and makes it precisely what it ought to be - truthful, humble, and a sincere and effective combination of hilarious and dispiriting. I really enjoy when people admit that being kind is a choice, and can be extremely difficult, and when they reveal their own private dreams, sorrows, and crazy unreasonable expectations for themselves and others. That's John Hodgman's real talent - showing his full humanity, and thereby breaking into yours.

  • Drew

    4.5, in fact. I think I might need to write about this one for real when I get back from vacation.

  • Julie

    Writer, humorist, podcaster, PC guy, and Daily Show contributor John Hodgman is back, and he's telling (almost) the whole truth. In this collection of funny and reflective essays, Hodgman explores the existential symbolism of his patchy beard, how to navigate the social and natural wilds of Maine, and how even the weirdest dads have some "cool" cred. It's funny, and it's wrought--life is short, and Hodgman's book never lets you forget his (and your) impending demise.

    I was predisposed to love thi

    Writer, humorist, podcaster, PC guy, and Daily Show contributor John Hodgman is back, and he's telling (almost) the whole truth. In this collection of funny and reflective essays, Hodgman explores the existential symbolism of his patchy beard, how to navigate the social and natural wilds of Maine, and how even the weirdest dads have some "cool" cred. It's funny, and it's wrought--life is short, and Hodgman's book never lets you forget his (and your) impending demise.

    I was predisposed to love this book... I'm a fan of Hodgman's, and the comedic memoir is one of my favorite genres. But I came away from Vacationland feeling that it was just "okay."

    There are moments of wit, brilliance, and emotionality, surrounded by other moments that left me wondering "so what?" Hodgman's trademark humor is undermined here by a tendency to follow a joke with a self-congratulatory doubling-down that seems to say, "see what I did there?"

    Vacationland has the barebones of a great comedic memoir, but could use something more. Though I found myself saving several passages that were deftly articulate, funny, and relatable, the essays as a whole lack oomph.

    I received an ARC of this book in August 2017. It will be published on October 24, 2017.

  • Portia

    What. A. Delight.  I have been watching John Hodgman in various things for years but didn't really know anything about him so this was so much fun to read.  The essays varied in topic and I really got a rounded view of who John Hodgman is.  My roommates ended up reading most of the book with me because I kept having to share the best passages with them (which were the majority of the book).  It is so well written and I can't explain how much fun I had reading this.

    I did take points off, though,

    What. A. Delight.  I have been watching John Hodgman in various things for years but didn't really know anything about him so this was so much fun to read.  The essays varied in topic and I really got a rounded view of who John Hodgman is.  My roommates ended up reading most of the book with me because I kept having to share the best passages with them (which were the majority of the book).  It is so well written and I can't explain how much fun I had reading this.

    I did take points off, though, for his very wrong views of fudge.

  • Allen Adams

    Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Not in the case of John Hodgman, though. His latest book – “Vacationland: True Stories of Painful Beaches” – is a massive departure from his previous three books, a bestselling trio constructed entirely out of fake facts and imaginary trivia.

    See, the stories in this book are true … and hilarious.

    “Vacationland” is divided more or less evenly between Hodgman’s earlier days spent in western Massachusetts and his more

    Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Not in the case of John Hodgman, though. His latest book – “Vacationland: True Stories of Painful Beaches” – is a massive departure from his previous three books, a bestselling trio constructed entirely out of fake facts and imaginary trivia.

    See, the stories in this book are true … and hilarious.

    “Vacationland” is divided more or less evenly between Hodgman’s earlier days spent in western Massachusetts and his more recent experiences with his family on the coast of Maine. But regardless of which summer house he’s remembering at any given moment, his unique comedic voice rings out with a clever clarity that is very much unlike anything else you’re likely to read.

    These stories – over a dozen in all – serve as a sort of primer on all things Hodgman. Taken together, one could argue that they illustrate not only who he is, but how he came to be that person. It’s a memoir of sorts, but a selective one; the end result is a portrait of a man who has never been entirely sure what it means to be an adult, but is muddling through nonetheless.

    The book’s first half explores Hodgman’s relationship with his family’s home in western Massachusetts. These stories feature plenty of glimpses at the deliberately esoteric weirdo teen desperate to grow up that Hodgman was, but also digs into his young adulthood as his life’s path began its unexpected shift.

    Whether it’s the self-inflicted existential crisis of “Dump Jail” – where he constructs elaborate tales to tell the guys at the dump if they ever ask - or the substance-enhanced idyll of cairn building in “Rocks on Top of Other Rocks,” Hodgman captures a sense of the very real absurdity that often accompanies being an adult. Maybe he explores the notion of his first “real” job and his first REAL job (“Mongering”); maybe he confronts the need to remain hip as he ages (“Daddy Pitchfork”).

    Or maybe he’s relating the story where he meets Black Francis, lead singer of The Pixies and one of his personal musical idols, at the county fair and invites him and his family back to his house and shares cans of Diet Moxie with him – all while also contextualizing adulthood by way of broken septic systems and poop-filled silverware drawers (“Nerve Food”).

    As for the second half, that’s when we learn more about the time Hodgman and his family have spent summering on the coast of Maine. This Hodgman has already achieved a fair degree of success, though he still has some questions with regards to this whole adulthood business.

    For instance, there’s the story of how he and his wife accidentally bought a boat (“You Are Normal People”). “A Little Beyond the Safe Limits of Travel” is in many ways a follow-up to that story; it also captures the inherent spirit of Mainers beautifully. In “A Kingdom Property,” the stark differences between people and their attitudes are rendered with a clarity that is both funny and a little sad.

    Hodgman also takes some shots at Maine humor in the piece titled … “Maine Humor”; the famed Perry’s Nut House makes an extended appearance as he breaks down the notion of Maine humor and denigrates the value of fudge.

    And on and on and on. Every one of the stories in “Vacationland” charms with its honesty; even when relating true tale, Hodgman’s wit is unsurpassed. Anyone who has lived in these places will be struck by moments of recognition.

    But it’s more than that. We’ve all questioned our choices as we stagger through adulthood; everyone has stretches where they feel as if they have no idea what they’re doing. Growing up – and growing older – is scary. Hodgman captures that feeling with exquisite precision. There’s weirdness at every turn, no matter where we are or who we’re with. John Hodgman understands that.

    Look, these stories are funny. They’re REALLY funny. Frankly, you probably don’t need me to tell you that. What you might not expect, however, is what kind of heft they have. Even in the funniest moments, there are real feelings and real ideas being expressed. Hodgman finds ways to elicit a sense of pathos without ever losing that light of laughter. He shares hard truths as willingly as the easy ones. And he never once seems to forget just how lucky he is. It’s remarkable to read, an open window into a complex comedic psyche.

    This book might not be everything that is John Hodgman, but everything it is is definitely real.

    “Vacationland” is smart and snarky and occasionally raw. Hodgman’s narrative gifts are undeniable, and when combined with this kind of genuine feeling and truth, the end result is flat-out exceptional. It’s a beautiful balance of humor and heart – a book that’ll make you laugh, that’ll make you think … and that’ll ultimately make you glad you spent some time with John Hodgman.

  • John Tankersley

    As we age, we become more sentimental. As he ages, so goes John Hodgman's writings. A memoir of a man struggling to keep his privilege in check from a man who grew up as the beneficiary of an unequal society. It was a real pleasure to hear his own internal monologue on raising his kids, struggling with his privilege, and being entertaining while he does it. This book seems like a less articulate dominant group response to BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME--but from a very different perspective.

    I hope Jo

    As we age, we become more sentimental. As he ages, so goes John Hodgman's writings. A memoir of a man struggling to keep his privilege in check from a man who grew up as the beneficiary of an unequal society. It was a real pleasure to hear his own internal monologue on raising his kids, struggling with his privilege, and being entertaining while he does it. This book seems like a less articulate dominant group response to BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME--but from a very different perspective.

    I hope John Hodgman writes more books in this vein. I enjoyed him here even more than I have in his other books. Well done. A very good read.

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