10 January 2012

5. The Idiot

The Idiot - John Kendrick Bangs

This was first published in 1895 and was the first in a series of "Idiot" books.

This entire book was conversations between a group of friends who lived in a boarding house and would have discussions over breakfast. The dialog was captivating and fun. I loved the way the book flowed despite jumping around.

The characters included a lawyer, a doctor, a priest, a teacher, a librarian, and a man who worked as a clerk that later became business partners with the owner...that they called "the idiot". I am unsure why they called him the idiot. The man definitely was not ignorant or stupid. Maybe unorthodox or unconventional, but not dumb. Maybe he was an idiot because he did not have a title to identify himself with?

Anyway, I found the conversations fascinating. I also found it interesting that the men would enjoy these conversations so much despite all the disagreement and verbal abuse they heaped upon each other. It kept me engaged, and that is all I ask from a book most of the time.


  1. The word "idiot" comes from the greek word "idios", which means "one who does not vote". More broadly, it refers to someone who doesn't participate in society in a meaningful way. I don't know how it evolved to the way we use it today (though it makes sense), but perhaps along the way, people in 1895 used it to mean someone who was idiosyncratic (oh hey, there is that "idio" again!) or behaved oddly. I don't know. Just throwing that out there. Anyways, nice find, I like books like these.

  2. That definition of idiot makes much more sense than the ignorant definition of today. Thank you for the clarification. :-)