The other day I was in a Borders bookstore among the biographies and a man and a teenage boy walked into the section. The kid was about 14 and I from his demeanor, I think the man was his divorced father. Anyway, we'll call them 'father' and 'son'. From the conversation, I gleaned that the son was doing a report on a famous person. (For the record, I wasn't trying to listen, but they were speaking loudly enough that if you were in the bios you could hear.) And the conversation went something like this:
Dad: "Here's a book on Franklin Roosevelt."
Son: "Who the hell is Franklin Roosevelt?"
Repeat for the next minute or so, just with names like John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and Marie Curie. And the kid had this slow sing-song voice that gave me the impression that speaking was a mental strain.He knew celebrities like George Lopez, but Dad wasn't having any of that. Junior knew who Houdini was, but balked when Dad showed him a book that looked maybe 300 pages long. Junior said "Thass... way... too... big."
All the while, I'm standing there in a corner where two bookshelves intersect looking at Ron Chernow's bio of Alexander Hamilton (Who... the... hell... is... Alexander... Hamilton?). I didn't want to leave because I was working like a crazy monkey to not smile or laugh at this poor imbecile and if I turned around they might see. After they left to look for the autobiographies (the kid misread "Audiobooks") I escaped.
If Whitney Houston is right and children are our future, we're screwed.
By the way, I didn't get the Chernow, because I remembered that I have an unread Hamilton biography by Richard Brookhiser sitting at home. Too bad, it looked pretty good.