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Book Review: The World’s Worst

Written by Mark Frauenfelder
Published by Chronicle Books

The stated intent behind this book is to provide a counterpoint to all of the catalogs of “finest things” in the world. So here you get a glimpse of exactly what the book promises when it purports to be “A Guide to the Most Disgusting, Hideous, Inept and Dangerous People, Places and Things on Earth.” The end result? It’s what the Ripley’s Believe It or Not television show would be like if it appeared on cable.

Now I’ve read many books about crazy, hairy shit before. But there was just something comforting in turning the page to the first entry and seeing, in huge point type, “LEAST ADORABLE PET.” Now when I started to think about what the least adorable pet might turn out to be, I started considering the question on the obvious level: something odd that a handler would bring onto Johnny Carson’s show so we could all guffaw at watching the thing try and crawl up Johnny’s sleeve. You know, something spiky. Or poisonous. Or stinky. But no. I was being way too general and Frauenfelder goes right to the appropriate, specific answer: Miracle Mike, the Headless Chicken. It was at this point that I felt a large sigh leave my body: I knew exactly what I was in for and that I was in the hands of a man who knew what he was doing. And he had done his research.

And lots of it, too, because while I heard of Miracle Mike before, had a run-in with (though was never dined on by) a brown recluse spider, and even was familiar with what madness tulips brought on a while back…how in the hell could I have known the answers to some of the more crazed categories? I’m talking about the Worst Molasses-Related Disaster, where you’re laughing because it’s molasses. And then you’re feeling bad because it’s terrible. And then you’re laughing again…because it’s molasses, for God’s sake. And then there’s the Cruelest Food Preparation. You think you have heard of something as appalling involving food…but really, you haven’t. As I said: Frauenfelder knows crazy shit. And his fu is strong.

The great thing about this book is that you can either blow through it, or you can have it handy to just pick up and read a category. They’re short, averaging maybe two pages or so, so you can read, be amazed, and be done. It’s one of those great books you can just leave out on a coffee table because it just begs to be opened and read by unsuspecting party guests. We’re ready for a Vol. 2 whenever you are, Prof. Frauenfelder.

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