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"'George's secrets'. There's the shortest book ever written!"—Ape, George of the Jungle
A type of insult, this is a shorthand way of saying what a character is not capable of. The implication is that, if a certain person were to write this book, it would have little or no content because they can't do what the title says. These are typically cruel to the purported "author", which is why we're limiting this to appearances in works of fiction.
Sometimes the title says it all ("The Amish Phone Directory"), and sometimes the author of the book is the key ("What I Wouldn't Do for Money" by Dennis Rodman). Occasionally inverted where what someone doesn't know is said to be a large book. (Which, in Real Life would be the case for everyone because there is an incredible amount of information in the universe that you would need to have an astonishingly huge mental capacity to retain it).
Contrast Wrote the Book.
Should be limited to examples that appear in fiction.
- Mad Magazine occasionally had a shelf of these, usually politically- or current events-themed. A few examples:
- Nixon was also the subject of a National Lampoon one not long after his resignation that claimed that the new book "Friends of Richard Nixon" was one page shorter than "Famous Antarctic Television Personalities of the Eighteenth Century." It went on to note that then-President Gerald Ford said he had been "reading it all week, finding it challenging in its scope."
- Dynamite, a magazine aimed at pre-teens from 1974-92 sold in those "Arrow Books" flyers they gave out in elementary school, did an article like this. "The Joy of Homework" was one title, as was something like "My Greatest Baseball Victories" by Charlie Brown.
- In one Pearls Before Swine strip, Rat writes a book about what men want. There is one single page with the word "SEX" in all caps.
Rat: "It would have been shorter, but I included a paragraph about beer."
- In one Calvin and Hobbes strip:
Calvin: On today's agenda, we'll make a list of what girls are good for. Obviously this will be a short meeting!
- Played with in Dilbert. Dogbert is writing an encyclopedia, but its mostly on him. Although he has a section on Canada which simply says "Canada has trees."
- George of the Jungle has this, as shown in the page quote.
- Lampshaded in Airplane! with "Famous Jewish Sports Legends". It's just a pamphlet.
- A non-book example from The Jungle Book:
Bagheera: And just how do you think he (Mowgli) will survive?
Baloo: "How do you think he will"... What do you mean how do you think he... He's with me, ain't he? And I'll learn him all I know.
Bagheera: Oh? That shouldn't take long.
- Played With in Real Life by the book What Men Know About Women. It's completely blank.
- From Reaper Man: the Dean claims that The Librarian can't come along on a mission to rescue Windle Poons from the living shopping mall because he "doesn't know the a thing about guerilla warfare" The Librarian responds by making "a surprisingly expressive gesture to indicate that that, on the other hand, what he didn't know about orangutan warfare could possibly be written on the very small pounded-up remains of, for example, the Dean."
- An inversion from Harry Potter:
"I am not aware that it is any of your business what goes on in my house--"
"I expect what you're not aware of would fill several books, Dursley," growled Moody.
- When the protagonist of Does My Head Look Big in This is taunted by Tia Thompson about her religion, she makes an offhand comment about finding the shortest book she ever read called "My Thoughts by Tia Thompson". Tia gives up for the time being.
- Bill Cosby's I Am What I Ate...and I'm Frightened! has a single page, blank except for the chapter heading, for the chapter entitled "Moderation".
Live Action TV
Drew Carey: The shortest book ever written.
Chip Esten: British Dentistry.
- Referenced in Fawlty Towers with the character Johnson in "The Psychiatrist," who says the guidebook about interesting things in Torquay must be "one of the world's shortest books," like "The Wit of Margaret Thatcher" or "Great English Lovers."
- On The Golden Girls, Blanche finds out that her sister's new romance novel is based on Blanche's sex life.
Dorothy: I'd kill Gloria if she ever wrote a book about my sexual escapades.
Sophia: You'd kill your sister over a pamphlet?
- On I Love Lucy, when Lucy decides to write a novel:
Lucy: I'm writing about things I know.
Ethel: That won't be a novel, that'll be a short story!
- Life Ain't No Pony Farm gives us the author's secrets and success story.
- Inverted in Schlock Mercenary:
Roy: Woah, you?! Helping someone other than yourself? I don't believe it!
Haley: Excuse me? (Angrily) Since when did you become the ultimate authority on me? If you took everything you don't know about me, and put it all together, it would get a -16 size penalty to AC!