Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery, by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, with Jake Greene (Crown Archetype, hard cover, Oct. 10, 2017, 272 pages) Falls into genre of subjective non-fiction and/or narrative non-fiction.

I have been watching Rhett and Link, a.k.a Rhett McLaughlin and Link (Charles) Neal, on their YouTube channel, Good Mythical Morning, for years. I get childishly amused when they do off-the-wall things, such as ask “Will it…Omelette?”, and then mix horrible things together in omelettes and eat the results. They have special barf-buckets on set just for that. I thought their test for non-smear lipstick was just hilarious. They are good-looking guys; Rhett, very tall and blond, with a beard; Link, average height and dark, with glasses. Usually the show is well-researched, not sweary, cheerful, short, funny and interesting. So when they published a book, Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality, I went and bought it.

Everything a super-fan ever wanted to know but never got to ask

Firstly, it reveals just about everything a GMM (Good Mythical Morning) super-fan, a “Mythical Beast”, would want to know about Rhett and Link’s personal lives – their “wifes” (separate wife each, not wives, shared), children, childhood, education, etc. They write about their failures, fears, Internet success, and their very long friendship. It’s nice to read that they are both happy and challenged by their GMM job of “Internetainment”. (The book contains a lot of made-up words, like Internetainment, that my spell-checker refuses to recognize.)

Will it…print? …Let’s talk about that.

But will it…print? To use their catchphrase: “Let’s talk about that”. I wondered why two guys who are so focused on Internet media, and have been digital for so long, would publish a printed paper book – apart from allowing them a long look back at their GMM project, and promoting the expansion of their YouTube channel this year. Because it doesn’t always work in print. Their invention of the concept of “Mythicality”, defined as curiosity, creativity and tomfoolery, means that the content and presentation of each chapter looks a bit like a typical GMM episode – funky set and graphic design (some folksy, retro effects there); quizzes, lists, fan input and random crew involvement, and honest/non-faked human-guineapig reactions to weird tests from Link and Rhett, said guineapigs.

So, each chapter in the book is along the same lines – it starts with a straight-faced introduction by Link and Rhett and is then followed by things to do, such as an interactive challenge or test (mix something up, embrace immaturity, invent something ridiculous, etc.)

And therein lies the problem: for instance, to do the “LCT – Laughter Compatibility Test” (pp. 24-25), you’d have to write in the book to fill in the response cards, or else photocopy the page and then complete the test. On pp. 34-35, you have a poster designed to make you “get lost”. Nice poster, funny, but printed across two pages and impossible to use. In “20 Ways to Embrace Immaturity”, p. 90, there is a checklist to fill out and dotted lines along which to cut it out – but would you want to write in the book or cut out the page? “Character Building – The Board Game” requires a die and a flat board surface, neither of which is possible with the book. So it goes.

It’s a hefty book, more than 270 pages of entertaining stuff. I just wish the designer and publisher had thought of the user experience, which would have been common-sense on a website. Most frustrating for me was Rhett and Link ’s funeral hymn, “We’re Still there” which has the sheet music and lyrics but I cannot read music so I can’t sing it, tarnation!

Book inserts, maybe?

Don’t say it cannot be done. In “S” by J.J.Abrams and Doug Dorst, the book came in a package complete with paper maps, compass, handwritten notes, and other removable, usable objects. When Berkeley Breathed published his Bloom Country comic book, “Billy and the Bootleg Boingers” in 1987, it included a flexi-disk with “I’m A Boinger,” on the one side and “U-Stink-But-I-♥-U,” on the B-side. I had a record player so I actually removed and played the small vinyl record – and I still have it. (Dreadful songs though. Would never have been hits.)

And when Beatles fan Jerry Levitan published his memoir of his interview with John Lennon, I Met the Walrus, in 2008, the book included a DVD of the actual footage and recordings he had made – because they are core to the subject.

So it would not have been inconceivable. Would’ve cost a bit more to produce the book and perhaps it would’ve ended up less tidily packaged and less high-end. But it would’ve prevented some understandable prostrations (condition of being prostate with frustration). I wonder how they would’ve accommodated the quizzes, music etc., in the audio-book and e-book versions. And I wonder whether I’m the only picky reader to have come up against this?

Make no mistake, fellow wannabe Mythical Beasts, I ♥ Rhett and Link/Link and Rhett, and I’m an old bag, not easily amused, and I look at their show and merchandising as a lesson in how to make a worthwhile (grown-up) enterprise from  Internet entertainment. (Cue applause here.) However, book publishing has some complications, graphic design being the least of them and, as I said, the reader’s response being the most difficult and unpredictable. So, the guys could perhaps give a thought to this for the second edition of the print book?

Psychology of Mythicality

Other than that: excellent writing, no typos, funny in parts and actually well thought out and properly researched and annotated. Even the Psychology behind their suggestions is sound. Nothing is actually harmful, nothing will get you hurt, or killed or drive you crazy. For instance, they have an “anger illusion” on a double page spread, which looks exactly like those old “Magic Eye” hidden 3-D images, and says;

“There are times when you find yourself in the midst of a confrontation and if you don’t stop and cool off, you’re destined to get into trouble. We have provided the above image. If you stare at it long enough (slightly crossing your eyes helps), you will calm down.”

Of course you will. On the next page is a small note:

“Note about the previous page: The Anger Illusion did not contain a hidden image. Sorry if we made you angry again.”

Heh-heh-heh! So, just simple, sensible advice. But clever. No-one will get sued, the Mythical Beasts will be safe. After all, both these guys have Engineering degrees. They were allowed to actually do the calculations to build stuff which did not fall down and kill someone. (As they said in amazement.)

How’s your Mythicality level?

After having read it, I am glad to announce that I am almost a Mythical Beast, strongly invested with the Powers of Mythicality, based on MOST of what that entails. There are only 6 out of 20 projects that I haven’t got round to doing, but here’s what I have done:

  • Laugh your way into friendship. ☑ Yes, any other basis for friendship doesn’t really work for me.
  • Get lost ☑ Absolutely. We frequently get lost on purpose when we travel. When I had my first job in the city and often got lost by accident, my buddy and I developed a system where we’d pick a car at random and follow it until it stopped. We might not be where we wanted to be but at least we knew where we were. Yes, I know. Daft.
  • Make a bold hair choice. ☑ Yep. Went the same blue-white hairstyle that Rhett and Link had in their head-banger phase. With the same results.
  • Embrace immaturity. ☑ Yes, in my head I’m about ten years old, with a sense of humour to match.
  • Pick a fight. ☑ Yes, with the guys who beat up my little brother. I was a mean little girl.
  • Get your hands dirty. ☑ Yes. All the time. Got mangled fingernails to prove it.
  • Say “I Love You” like it’s never been said. ☑ Yes. Think I have done that a lot.
  • Invent something ridiculous. ☑ Sure. Once made a robot waiter from a dress shop dummy, and put a music box in his chest for a heart.
  • Give throwback thanks. ☑ Surely. Did that for my favourite teachers.
  • Become a superfan. ☑ Yes. I was hopelessly hooked on both Robert Redford and Luciano Pavarotti. I wrote them fan mail! I made paintings of them! Bad ones! And sent it to them! Oooooooh. The shame.
  • Conduct a weird experiment. ☑ I do love those. Saw one on TV I have to try: making your DNA visible in your spit! Yes!!
  • Risk your heart for an animal ☑ Yep. I’ve had my heart broken so many times.
  • Isolate yourself with yourself ☑ Absolutely. I’m the Cat That Walked By Herself.
  • Stop and celebrate ☑ Yes, I do, every so often.

On the branding of Good Mythical Morning – even that’s mythical

Did you know that the Mythical Beast that is featured all over the book (and in the header of this post) is a creature that is a mix of mouse/rabbit, deer and bird? It looks remarkably like the mythical German creature the Wolpertinger that has the head of a rabbit, the body of a squirrel, the antlers of a deer, and the wings and occasionally the legs of a pheasant. According to Bavarian legend, Wolpertingers are considered very shy and one must be drunk in order to see them, so they often appear at bierfests.

The logo of the GMM show is a fire-breathing rooster crowing the morning wake-up call. And that looks very like the mythical Aitvara, a rooster with a fiery tail found in Lithuanian houses. Aitvaras are housekeepers or household spirits. They bring both good and bad luck to the inhabitants of the house and often provide their adopted home with stolen gold and grain.

Need to know more about the authors?

Go to GMM on YouTube, or buy the book. ‘Nuff said.

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