AJ Jacobs submits himself to tasks of varying degrees of pain so you don't have to. Or at least so you'll know what it's like to sport-read an encyclopedia, treat the Bible as a personal user manual, and adopt a policy of abhorrent, offensive, Fletcher Reede honesty.
"People have suggested I do all the positions in the Kama Sutra. My wife nixed that one fast."
Or, if you're keeping on trend with peak-wellness, trying new health tips. All of them. The result is Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection the third entry in Jacobs' Mind-Spirit-Body trinity of immersive exercises in self-betterment, and an absurdly exhaustive, acutely overcommitted health regimen, which found the Esquire editor lobbing boulders in Central Park and jerry-rigging a treadmill desk to write about it ("Drop Dead Healthy" = 1,200 miles), among other unlikely pursuits for a man whose body heretofore resembled, as he describes it, "a snake that swallowed a goat."The following are excerpts from an email conversation with Jacobs, who is no doubt trying to teach himself conversational Cantonese by Labor Day, or something.
Gelf Magazine: What do you say to critics of your projects who dismiss them as stunt journalism?
Gelf Magazine: Which has been your most immersive experience?AJ Jacobs: The year I spent living by all the rules of the Bible. It changed everythingwhat I ate, what I wore, what I said, what I thought, what I shaved, how I touched my wife. It was fascinating. And in the end, it really did improve my life.
AJ Jacobs: I'm a huge fan of both of those writers. I read a lot of Plimpton in college, so I'm sure he seeped into my consciousness and shaped my career choices.
Gelf Magazine: Have you drawn a line for yourself in terms of extremity? Joining training camp with the Brooklyn Nets? Shellacking on some kohl and doing a Black Like Me redux (Gelf does not endorse this idea, which is awful, and will probably appear in Vice next month)?
AJ Jacobs: After I wrote The Year of Living Biblically, a lot of people suggested I do The Year of Living Quranically. I passed on that one. I liked exploring my own religious traditionbut diving into another tradition? That sounded too flippant. Also, people have suggested I do all the positions in the Kama Sutra. My wife nixed that one fast.
Gelf Magazine: What were some of the more outrageous things you did for Drop Dead Healthy?
AJ Jacobs: Doing the Caveman Workout (tossing boulders), and using a device called Nature's Platform, which helps you squat over the toilet instead of sit (much healthier for the bowels! And efficient for the busy professional).
Gelf Magazine: How did the official post-prognosis compare with how you actually felt, and how much of a recidivist were you in reverting to unhealthy habits?
AJ Jacobs: I actually do feel better. I've kept up with the treadmill desk, so that's the biggest lifestyle change.
Gelf Magazine: Would you call yourself a professional amateur at this point, or more of a social servantdoing these things, "For Science!"?
AJ Jacobs: I love the idea of being a social servant. Please alert the Congressional Medal of Honor committee!
Gelf Magazine: So what's the verdict? Is being optimally healthy a realistic goal for the average person?
AJ Jacobs: It's unhealthy to be overly obsessed with health. Having a happy life is key to health too. So enjoy the occasional pastry.