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Book Review: American Nerd

Nov 19, 2008, 22:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Adam Jenkins)

"As is clear from the title, American Nerd sets out to concentrate on the American nerd, and to define what a nerd is. As with a lot of social labels, it's not so easily defined. Nugent defines two categories of nerd; those who are intellectual and socially awkward in a machine-like way, and also people who are simply socially excluded. We learn that the word 'nerd' first started being used in America around the 1960s, but as well as the more recent 'geek', there have also been words like 'boffin' and 'greasy grind' which are similar in meaning. The book is divided into three sections, with the history of the nerd, a more detailed section called "Among the Nerds", and a shorter section "My Credentials". The latter section expands on the glimpses into Nugent's life through the rest of the book, like the case study in the second part about Nugent's friend from the Ghetto of Amherst and includes another case study, about another of his childhood friends.

"The author spent some his school years being picked on as a nerd and at the start he discloses that consequently his journalistic objectivity is compromised. Later in the book, he tells us that he stopped being a nerd in his teens. As part of this disclaimer, Nugent states that he empathizes with nerds and anti-nerds alike, and really, who better to do that than an ex-nerd? He seems to have done some good research for the book, including attending the Third Annual Anime Los Angeles Convention, SCA events like Estrella War in Arizona, and talking with Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts, who wrote the first nerd sketch for Saturday Night Live."

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