Know things

Since last November that this brick of more than 700 pages made me big eyes. Chue on the corner of my office during this crazy period of autumn when everyone throws something near Christmas, she had not yet managed to get a box in my calendar. Part of my fault: I did not know how to approach it. But she stayed there anyway, between two stacks of books, with her yellow blanket looking like, “When are you going to do something with me?” ”
The months have passed, until reason catches up with me: “Steve, your best friend François Couture has just published his first book: you can not do nothing! “

Especially since this Quebec edition of The General Culture for Dummies is so representative of the path that he and I have traveled since high school.

I do not think I ever told you about Francois. In Alma, he lived on Parizeau Avenue, me on Normandin Avenue, but between the two, there was the dangerous boulevard Saint-Judes, which meant that we only met in kindergarten. My family then moved, but we ended up in high school, then in college, in pure sciences. We went to Sherbrooke to study at university, he in physics, me in chemistry. Both were abandoned the following year to enter letters and communications. I finished with a bachelor’s degree in French studies, he with a master’s degree in creative writing. I found a job as a journalist here, he went to Montreal where he did a thousand and one jobs (journalist for Voir, press secretary for Triptyque editions, researcher for Christiane Charette, Monique Giroux,

Just to give you an idea of ​​our friendship: this is the first person I told that I was gay.

But I think what we shared most precious was being part of the budding genius team at our high school. In fact, without that, I think neither he nor I would be where we are today. Some said it was skull stuffing, simple memorization, when we discovered that there is so much more to know than what we learn at school. Better: we can know things just for the sake of knowing things.

Imagine the smile on my face when I discovered that the first book signed by François (this guy has a feather of hell and we are legion to wait for his first novel) was a book of general culture. The same kind of book we read to prepare for our budding Genius tournaments (by the way, it’s been exactly 30 years this year, we were at the Triolet for the provincial tournament, which played into our decision to study in Sherbrooke two years later).

But it was not he who had the idea of ​​this Quebec version of The general culture for dummies. “This is an order from Éditions de l’Homme, where I worked for a year and a half, and who have agreed with the First editions, the rights holders for the Francophonie series For Dummies , to make titles adapted to our market. For example, in the original version of the book, there is a whole chapter on French TV shows that do not tell us anything here. It was the ideal project for me, because it came to light a lot of passions that I have in life: the writing, the research, the human knowledge … I am in a category of brains which is incapable of being satisfied of a thing. ”

In English, we call that slashers , referring to the slash between each profession accumulated by the same person. François sent me, with a big ouache! , the link in the Grand Terminology Dictionary that suggests translating as “multifunctional worker” or “cumulative worker”.

Apart from the section on Canadian history, which he entrusted to a true historian (Mathieu Perron), my cumulo-friend wrote a brand new chapter on television, in addition to adding several paragraphs on culture. “The inevitable Quebecois like Armand Vaillancourt, the Bolduc or the painters of Refus global were obviously not in the original edition. In sports, I removed rugby to talk more about hockey, basketball and baseball. But I had to make several harrowing choices, because of the limited space. In the end, this gives 15 to 20 percent new material. It’s not Quebec culture for dummies, but Quebec culture that fits into the general culture, “he says.

I obviously asked my friend what he thought of this general culture, the one that allowed us both to go where we are, who serves us every day in our work, but who, when we look around self, does not seem so important. Besides, why combine “general knowledge” and “genius”? Is she so inaccessible and elitist?

“I think it’s less and less valued in society and in our school system. School is increasingly used to produce workers, not citizens. On the other hand, I look at my two teenagers and I find them very bright, even more so than us at their age because of the technological possibilities of today. And there are people who resist, there are always budding Genius tournaments … ”

“We must stop thinking that it is useless. This is how I sell my book: I say that you have to buy it because it is not useful. We can very well do without that knowledge. But as one NASA scientist said about the Higgs boson, what is furthest from our subsistence is what makes us human beings. The utilitarianism of this book is not in the capitalist or economic sense, but in the human sense. ”

And, paradoxically, quote me, when participants in the game Face the Wall at TVA won $ 444 000 last March, one of the competitors confessed that she had stuffed The general culture for Dummies by way of of preparation. “For her, it was really a utilitarian book,” he laughs.

Nothing to do with the real thirst for knowledge. But François and I were lucky to have teachers who thirsted for the rest of our lives.

The General Culture for Dummies, Québec Edition FOR THE NULS, ÉDITION QUÉBEC

716 pages

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