Cover

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pp. C-C

Title Page, Other Works by the Author, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-xii

Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: Does Sam Venable Even Exist?

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pp. xv-xxii

As proof of the fleeting significance of a historic event, I once left a Super Bowl party and within five days had completely forgotten the final score of the game. Now, years removed from that moment, I can’t even tell you who played whom. Or where....

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1. Who Needs Fiction?

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pp. 1-20

Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist for the Miami Herald, came to Knoxville in September 2002 to entertain at a corporate awards ceremony. Since the News Sentinel carried his popular syndicated column at the time, the suits in our front office decided to throw a fancy reception for him....

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2. Still Waiting for Y2K

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pp. 21-44

Roughly one month before his sixth birthday, my grandson shocked me with language he had picked up in kindergarten. I’m still having palpitations.
No, Max didn’t utter a bathroom word. Or—be still my soul—something even more coarse. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have been more stunned if he had unleashed a torrent of locker-room invective....

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3. A Strong Regional Bias

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pp. 45-74

As a native son of Knoxville, a lifelong resident of Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, it gives me tremendous pleasure to join my fellow citizens in a rousing chant of, “We’re Number One! We’re Number One! We’re Number One!”...

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4. A Two-Ring Circus with Elephants and Donkeys

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pp. 75-100

From Baja to Bangor, a predictable cry rises from the hoi polloi any time highlevel officials of the government travel into their midst.
If that official is a member of the Republican Party, nearly everyone associated with the Democrats—from the lowliest ward heeler to chairman of the state committee—will object to this “ridiculous, outrageous, dare-we-say-criminal...

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5. We Interrupt This Program . . .

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pp. 101-136

Whoa! Wait a minute! What’s a bunch of serious material doing in a nutty book like this, especially when announced like some cheesy radio broadcaster from the 1940s?
Good question. I hope to provide a satisfactory answer....

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6. A Few Extra Slices of Our Daily Bread

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pp. 137-162

Silly me. For years, I thought food was for eating. Or dining or snacking or munching or whatever term might best describe the process of sending vittles down the human “swallow pipe.” Little did I realize there are broader applications for our daily bread—along with our daily cheeseburgers, our daily barbecue, our daily hot dogs, our daily doughnuts, our daily pizza, our daily fries, our...

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7. The Science of Silliness

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pp. 163-186

Be it known to all that I stand foursquare behind the principle of scientific research. Bring on the experiments, the tests, the studies, the investigations! Award lucrative grants! Bestow PhDs by the multiplied dozen! From the depths of the oceans to the vast realms of outer space, there’s oh-so-much to learn about this planet we call home!...

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8. Very Important Dates

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pp. 187-210

I used to be one of the most addicted calendar watchers in the history of office work. But not for reasons you might expect.
There was none of this business of flipping ahead to June or July on a dreary, snow-patched February afternoon and happily daydreaming of summer vacation at the beach. Nor was the object of my calendar-gazing ever one of those ...

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9. Sports of Sorts

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pp. 211-242

Although I played varsity football—ineptly, sloppily, and without one scintilla of skill—throughout my years at Knoxville’s Young High School, I’ve never been much of a fan of organized sports.
Oh, I follow baseball in early fall and usually know which teams are headed for the World Series. And I watch enough college and professional football on TV to keep up with who’s who in their respective championship quests. Beyond...

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10. Being a Guy

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pp. 243-265

The last thing I’d ever do, especially here in the socially enlightened twenty-first century, is attempt to provoke rancor between the sexes. Or rancor between any diverse groups of people, for that matter. When it comes to the human interactions, I prefer to take the Rodney King approach: Can’t we all just get along?
Frankly, there isn’t a lot of difference between men and women, besides the obvious—which, for that matter, appears to be getting a bit less and less obvious...