This is the book where Karl really comes into his own as an author. Though some of the material is repeated in some of the podcasts, unlike the previous books Karl sat down to specifically write a complete book of his thoughts on various topics. In Karlology we are treated to his musings on The Natural History Museum, the London Zoo, and the Tower of London.
Each chapter consists of Karl’s visit to a place of “culture,” usually a museum or gallery of some kind, and he then comments on what he’s seen. In the Tate modern he comments on street performers outside the location, what he thinks art is (“stuff to fill a space that would otherwise be empty” according to Karl), and his opinions on the art he sees in the gallery (such as dwarf sculptures and creepy videos).
Included in karl’s random thoughts are:
- Medical words are too complex, that’s why doctors have bad handwriting.
- Maybe humans and dinosaurs did live together but there weren’t many people so we haven’t found traces yet. “A bit like pug dogs – they’ve been around for years but I only saw one for the first time about nine years ago.”
- Chinese surgeons are apparently the best because “they’re always dealing with kids with four legs or two heads in China.”
- Extensive thoughts on stick insects, including, “If reincarnation does exist, I wouldn’t want to come back as a stick insect. I’d rather come back as a real twig: a least I wouldn’t have any enemies, and I’d be the real thing as opposed to an imitator.”
- And of course, in relation to the astronauts’ short duration of time spent on the Moon “I suppose once you’ve seen one bit of the Moon, you’ve seen it all.”
In addition to the main text there are lists of facts concerning the topics covered each chapter, brief quotes from other individuals describing things they’ve learned, and occasional random incidents such as Karl’s Brain scan, his attempts at a Mensa test and “what can I learn from the news?” where Karl keeps a log of what’s reported on the news for a whole week. Though I’m sure more news was reported than he records, it really gives a good log of all the nonsense the “news” talks about, such as it being “talk like a pirate day” and fish born with two heads. He also mentions the Middle East war (surprisingly!) and comments “I don’t know how the can keep the anger up.” A great point I think…
Several of the thoughts in Karlology are heard in conversation during the “Ricky Gervais Guide to…” podcasts, but unlike previous efforts this book doesn’t have the feeling of a tie in. Though natural history, medicine, and art are topics in the “guides to” Karlology isn’t a collection of the podcasts in written form or Karl’s thoughts on the previous discussions, they are, instead, Karl’s pure thoughts on what he sees in the places he visits. In fact he covers stick insects again on Idiot Abroad giving the impression that he tends to stick with what he believes! Karlology may be Karl’s best book. Because it is Karl in his purest form, viewing familiar subjects (though Gunther van Hagens’ Bodies exhibit might not be exactly “familiar” it was something that many people visited) through his own unique lens. It’s highly recommended for Karl fans, and it would be interesting to see what people who don’t know Karl think of his commentary!
Here’s a nice clip of Ricky and Stephen talking to Karl about his book.
It’s available here!