Our Dumb Century

THIS JUST IN: NEW PRESIDENT FEELS NATION’S PAIN, BREASTS. If that bogus headline has you smiling in recognition, then you’re already a fan of The Onion, the humor publication that, with more than 460,000 weekly visitors to its website (, has become an online institution. Even if you’re Web impaired, though, get ready to join the club, because the Wisconsin-based weekly has gone real world: Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines From America’s Finest News Source is one of the few best-sellers in the Web-lit genre, and the latest example of successful sites that have inspired tomes of their own.

Auctioned off to Crown in a two-book, $450,000 pact after a deal with Disney-owned Hyperion fell through (could that have had anything to do with the book’s unflattering Mouse House references, e.g., DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM UNVEILS MAGIC MUSHROOM RIDE?), Our Dumb Century and its trademark brand of historical revisionism are doing splendidly, with more than 130,000 copies in print. And deservedly so: This compilation of all-new material features such gleefully incorrect headlines (and equally skewed stories) as ROSA PARKS TO TAKE CAB; KENNEDY, GIANCANA SIGN HISTORIC BIMBO-SHARING ACCORD; and KENNETH STARR TAUNTS CLINTON WITH ”SITTIN’ IN A TREE” SONG.

Leaving the land of the cerebral and traveling, um, south, there’s Nerve: Literate Smut, edited by Genevieve Field and Rufus Griscom, out last September. Filled with provocative articles from the archives of erotica site Nerve (, the tome reprints tales of highbrow bonking by the likes of Quentin Crisp, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, and Catherine Texier (author of the hot-and-heavy 1998 memoir Breakup). Though the quality varies — for every thoughtful piece, such as poet Lucy Grealy’s ”Autobiography of a Body,” there’s crude filler like porn kingpin Al Goldstein’s ”The Dawn of Screw” — Nerve hasn’t suffered from performance anxiety, with more than 24,000 copies in print.

Sex is just one topic in the ambitiously titled Tripod’s Tools for Life: Streetsmart Strategies for Work, Life — and Everything Else. A series of helpful essays augmented by postings from the 3-million-strong Tripod online community (, this snappy read makes a remarkably smooth transition from cyberspace to shelf space, covering everything from battling HMOs to selecting the right fume blanc to go with lemongrass soup. A single press run put 25,000 copies of Tools in print.

The trend shows no signs of abating: Online heavyweight Salon ( will be publishing two books in the coming months: Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood, based on the ‘zine’s section of the same name; and Salon Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors. The pop-culture gabfest Girls On ( will have four female twentysomethings unleashing their inner Eberts in Girls on Film in June. And in the wake of The Onion, Crown just brokered a high-five-figures deal with arty news site Word ( for Gig, a compilation of Studs Terkelesque interviews with everyone from transvestite prostitutes to computer hackers, due next March.

Transvestite prostitutes? Sounds like primo Onion fodder to us.
Our Dumb Century: A
Nerve: Literate Smut: B
Tripod’s Tools for Life: B+

Our Dumb Century
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