There are two types of summer reads: the kind your high school Lit teacher required, which you put off until the Thursday before Labor Day weekend because, while probably a poignant tale with excellent dialog, vivid character descriptions, and a twist that would make Jordan Peele’s head spin, it’s just so laborious that there really is no other weekend to undertake the task. The other? A breezy beach read. If you’re looking for the latter, allow me to recommend The Finger: A Comprehensive Guide to Flipping Off.
Aside from the awesomely juvenile premise, the greatest thing about The Finger is its origin story; after a presumably drunken evening, the co-authors decide to document the history of an act in which most of us regularly engage to varying degrees. The best way to describe the appeal of the book is that those of us in 90 percent in the general population who have extended said digit in the face of an offensive individual say that we find it immensely satisfying; the other 10 percent are liars.
The heavily (and hilariously) illustrated book begins with an overview of the subject and goes on to discuss the centuries-old origin of the gesture that modern society knows and loves. This portion of the book also dispels a long-standing myth regarding the topic.
One of many notable elements of The Finger is documentation of covert use of this form of communication; this includes a photo of a 19th century team photo and a propaganda image that demonstrates that POWs remain loyal to truth, justice, and the American way.
We further see photographic proof that puttin’ on the Ritz is not the only activity of Rockefellers and other household names. The context of the latter often involves paparazzi or the heat of a sports competition.
Wonderful humor relates to an extensive section on foreign variations of hand gestures that express great disdain; beyond being informative and entertaining, this provides a chance to enhance travel experiences with plausible deniability in the form of being a stupid American who alleges that he (or she) knows not of which he (or she) expresses.
A related portion of The Finger addresses variations of the American method for indicating that someone is “Number One.” This extends well beyond the “I’ll turn up the volume” technique to the furtive…
…to the ol’ fishing reel…
…the 21 Gun salute…
…the ‘I have something in my pocket’…
…Sagittarius the archer…
…and a personal variation that must’ve been left on the cutting room floor, the quilt-o-gram in which the gesturer is shrouded in a blanket and tells the offensive peer that he or she has a special message before turning to that individual and delivering the communication.
The authors add genuine substance regarding covering legal proceedings surrounding the making of the gesture (almost always involving a driving incident and often having an element of interaction with a law-enforcement official). The gist is that said gesture MOSTLY does not violate obscenity laws and OFTEN receives protection under freedom-of-expression principles. However the wisdom related to an abundance of caution suggests not doing the crime unless you are willing to do the time.
A desire to not further run the risk of a reader vigorously extending his or her offensive digit at his or her screen regarding spoilers as to this book is prompting concluding this review with a hearty endorsement of it.
The Finger: A Comprehensive Guide to Flipping Off is presented with a nifty lenticular image of the titular act and is available at Spencer’s Gifts and through a Seattle-based online retailer that deserves to be the frequent recipient of the gesture around which the book is centered.
New England Dude/TV DVD Guy Matt Nelson operates Matt Nelson Reviews to support the weird & wonderful of vintage & indie video fare. For more reviews on books off the beaten path, find him there.