"'George's secrets'. There's the shortest book ever written!"
A type of insult, this is a shorthand way of saying what a character is NOT capable of. The implication is that, if a certain person were to write this book, it would have little or no content because they can't do what the title says. These are typically cruel to the purported "author", which is why we're limiting this to appearances in works of fiction.
Sometimes the title says it all ("The Amish Phone Directory"), and sometimes the author of the book is the key ("What I Wouldn't Do for Money" by Dennis Rodman). Occasionally inverted where what someone doesn't
know is said to be a large
book. (Which, in Real Life
would be the case for everyone because there is an incredible amount of information in the universe that you would need to have an astonishingly huge mental capacity to retain it.)
Contrast Wrote the Book
. Similar in spirit to A Rare Sentence
Should be limited to examples that appear in fiction.
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- Non-book example in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. When Judai is dueling the Duel Spirit Kaibaman, who has just summoned one of the real Kaiba's Dragons, Manjyome remarks, "this could be a very short duel..." (Actually, as far as duels in the series go, it's average-length, but Judai loses.)
Live Action TV
- Referenced in Fawlty Towers with the character Johnson in "The Psychiatrist," who says the guidebook about interesting things in Torquay must be "one of the world's shortest books," like "The Wit of Margaret Thatcher" or "Great English Lovers."
- On The Golden Girls, Blanche finds out that her sister's new romance novel is based on Blanche's sex life.
Dorothy: I'd kill Gloria if she ever wrote a book about my sexual escapades.
Sophia: You'd kill your sister over a pamphlet?
- On I Love Lucy, when Lucy decides to write a novel:
Lucy: I'm writing about things I know.
Ethel: That won't be a novel, that'll be a short story!
- Whose Line Is It Anyway?:
- Match Game tended to have questions worded like, "Did you hear about the world's shortest book? It's called (insert title here), and it's written by [BLANK]."
- Inverted in a Castle second season episode:
Beckett: Oh, Castle, the things you don't know about me could fill a book.
- Dynamite, a magazine aimed at pre-teens from 1974-92 sold in those "Arrow Books" flyers they gave out in elementary school, did an article like this. "The Joy of Homework" was one title, as was something like "My Greatest Baseball Victories" by Charlie Brown.
- MAD occasionally had a shelf of these, usually political- or current events-themed. A few examples:
- Nixon was also the subject of a National Lampoon one not long after his resignation that claimed that the new book "Friends of Richard Nixon" was one page shorter than "Famous Antarctic Television Personalities of the Eighteenth Century." It went on to note that then-President Gerald Ford said he had been "reading it all week, finding it challenging in its scope."
- In one Pearls Before Swine strip, Rat writes a book about what men want. There is one single page with the word "SEX" in all caps.
Rat: "It would have been shorter, but I included a paragraph about beer."
- In one Calvin and Hobbes strip:
Calvin: On today's agenda, we'll make a list of what girls are good for. Obviously this will be a short meeting!
- Played with in Dilbert. Dogbert is writing an encyclopedia, but its mostly on him. Although he has a section on Canada which simply says "Canada has trees." This was, incidentally, before the advent of the common wiki.
- In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), one of the players announces a reading of "the funniest sections of the book of Job." Awkward silence ensues, because, of course, the book of Job doesn't have any funny parts. Another compares the Book of Ruth to other short books like Great Moments of Tolerance in the Old Testament and Positive Images of Women in the Bible.
- Another inversion, from The Simpsons:
Helen Lovejoy: I wasn't aware the rocket sled was an Olympic event.
Bart: No offense lady, but what you don't know could fill a warehouse.