Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me everyone should be able to sum themselves up in one single sentence. Two hundred words would be OK, a paragraph would do, but a sentence would be better – more finite, funnier probably. Of course, it used to be said that everyone had a book in them, although as we've seen from a decade's worth of ghastly, ghosted celebrity autobiographies (many of them dictated before the subject has reached their 21st birthday), there are a lot of people with an especially bad book in them – books so bad that the public, or at least the retailers, demand a sequel before they've reached the grand old age of 22.

A new book, however, thinks we should be able to sum ourselves up in just six words. Not Quite What I Was Planning is a compilation of teeny-tiny memoirs which evolved from a regular item on the online magazine, Smith. Inspired by Hemingway, who many moons ago wrote his own six-word masterpiece – "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" – Smith asked its readers to send in their own, receiving over 500 submissions a day. The results are never less than fascinating: "Born in California. Then nothing happened." "Everyone who loved me is dead." "After Harvard, had baby with crackhead." "Canoe guide, only got lost once." "Birth, childhood, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence..." Do you see what I mean? "You do? Oh good, well done!"

There are also contributions from notables: "Canada freezing. Gotham beckons. Hello Si!" "Well, I thought it was funny." "Couldn't cope so I wrote songs." (Graydon Carter, Stephen Colbert, Aimee Mann respectively.) There are nearly 1,000 entries in the book, and the idea has become so popular that a sequel is already planned. This sort of thing has been done before of course, although I doubt anyone will ever come close to Spike Milligan's own tombstone inscription, chosen some time before his death: "I told you I was ill".

As for my own, I have a few: "Dylan Jones: words written for money." "Dylan Jones: big smile, short memory." Or indeed, "Stick a dinosaur bone in your..." Although my favourite is the thing I tend to say more than anything else: "I don't necessarily disagree with you." Now, what would yours be?

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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