Book Review – A SHORT HISTORY OF STUPID by Bernard Keane & Helen Razer

A Short History of Stupid by Bernard Keane & Helen RazerA Short History of Stupid Synopsis :

The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream

Alain de Botton meets Russell Brand in this glorious rant about everything that drives you mad about the modern world.

How did everything get so dumb? How did we become hostages to idiocy?

What must we do to be freed from a captor whose ransom note simply reads, ‘D’oh’?

The deteriorating quality of our public debate and the dwindling of common sense in media, politics and culture can drive you to despair and rage. It certainly drove writers Helen Razer and Bernard Keane to a desperate act: befriending each other for long enough to write a book.

Join forces with these uneasy allies to fight against a world that has lost its reason. Explore what’s behind the remorseless spread of idiocy, and why there’s just so much damn Stupid around you.

Stupid isn’t just ignorance; it’s not just laziness. Worse than the absence of thought, Stupid is a virus that drains our productivity and leaves us sick and diminished. And Stupid has a long, complex and terrible past, one we need to understand in order to defeat it.

A Short History of Stupid traces the origins of this maddening ill, examining the different ways in which we’ve been afflicted over the last three thousand years. It damns those who have spread Stupid and celebrates the brave few who resisted. It shows how Stupid tightens the grubby grip of the foolish around our throats.

Hilarious, smart, unpleasant, infuriating and rude, A Short History of Stupid is at once a provocation and a comfort. It will spark debate, soothe the terminally frustrated and outrage the righteously Stupid. It is a book whose Stupid time has come.

(Allen & Unwin)


For a book that contains the word ‘short’ in the title, the publisher’s synopsis is very long, isn’t it? So I’ll try to keep my thoughts short.

I’ve not read much of Keane and Razer’s work, but have certainly enjoyed my share of articles from Crikey over the years – it’s always cathartic reading a well articulated rant on issues that frustrate us – mental ventilation without raising your own blood-pressure.

A Short History of Stupid is comprised of alternating chapters written by the authors in an engaging, conversational style from an unashamedly personal viewpoint. They make some excellent points, using intriguing tangents to do so. Boy, was it a relief to know I’m not the only one that  shakes my head every time news anchors cross to a live reporter standing in front of an empty building for no apparent reason!

At times though, for my tastes ‘conversational’ morphed into ‘rambling’ and ‘personal viewpoint’ veered into ‘historical baggage’… more often than not in those chapters penned by Razer. I’m pretty thick-skinned when it comes to profanity, but Razer’s gratuitous use of it began to grate on me. There was even a point at which I actually considered only reading Keane’s chapters going forward because I much preferred his tighter, more well reasoned delivery… but then Razer made another great point and so I stuck it out to the end.

I’ve not completed formal studies in Philosophy/History, so I found that content quite enlightening – great to have a better understanding of the origins of terms/theories often referenced in the everyday. For example, I was most pleased to hear I’ve been using the word ‘pragmatism’ correctly all these years too!

A Short History of Stupid is not a book that will necessarily lift your mood – in fact it’s a little disheartening to learn there is more Stupid in this world than I even realised – but it will help you compartmentalise and perhaps even have a dark chuckle about it, knowing you’re not alone in those frustrations.

I look forward to reading more from Bernard Keane…

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5

A Short History of Stupid by Bernard Keane & Helen Razer
Available from:
Book Depository | AmazonKobobooksBooktopia(Aus)

Genre: Non-Fiction

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2015

Author Information: Bernard Keane has been Crikey’s correspondent and politics editor in Canberra since 2008, writing on politics, media and economics. He was educated at the University of Sydney, where he studied history and failed to meet Helen Razer, who was there at the same time. Before joining Crikey he was a policy adviser and speechwriter in transport and communications. He is the author of the ebook War on the Internet and an incessant torrent of analysis, reportage and commentary on politics and public policy for Crikey.

For more than two decades, Helen Razer has been broadcasting and writing her way into disagreement of various scales. For much of the 1990s she presented the breakfast program on ABC radio’s youth network with her non-biological brother, Mikey Robins. She makes occasional returns to professional broadcast but is now better known as a somewhat peevish columnist. She has been employed as a contributor by The Age and The Australian, and is now a columnist on dissent with Crikey and gardening correspondent for The Saturday Paper. Helen has produced four previous books of humorous nonfiction, had a rest and returned to collaborate with her friend Bernard Keane to write her only serious work to date. Her frequently published thoughts on the impotence of current public debate are extended in A Short History of Stupid.

Other reviews of A Short History of Stupid : The Compulsive Reader ; The Guardian ; Sydney Morning Herald

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