'I Can Has Cheezburger' book missing online vibrancy

For the uninitiated, the book will likely expose the charm and humor of LOLCats, but for the faithful, it may well come across as a lackluster collection.

Fans of LOLCats can exhale: The 'I Can Has Cheezburger' book, which culls individual LOLCats from the famous Web site of the same name, is about to hit bookstore shelves. Icanhascheezburger.com

If you're a big fan of LOLCats like me, then you probably are very familiar with Icanhascheezburger.com , a community site where the most active practitioners of the phenomenon involving funny pictures of cats mixed with odd, badly spelled phrases ply their trade daily.

To the uninitiated, LOLCats can be hard to decipher, especially given that many of them are subtle meta references to the phenomenon itself. So regular Icanhascheezburger.com visitors are well-versed in phrases involving things like "Ceiling Cat...," "I'm in ur...," "...ur doing it wrong" and so on.

Over the last year-and-a-half, the site has become massively popular, with tens of millions of monthly visitors and even a series of spin-off sites, all in spite of the fact that it was hardly the originator of the phenomenon.

At the Gnomedex conference in Seattle in August, I Can Has Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh talked about the origins of the site and where the LOLCat phenomenon had come from. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Now, the creators of the site have cobbled together several dozen LOLCats from the site into I Can Has Cheezburger? the book. A slick little volume subtitled, "A LOLCat colleckshun," it features the famous fluffy gray cat so familiar to fans of the site on the cover.

I was really looking forward to the book, as I figured it would cull the best of the site's thousands upon thousands of user-created entries. And since I can always feel confident that a visit to the site will have me ROFLMAOing--rolling on the floor laughing my (butt) off--I expected that the book would induce much the same reactions, except even more concentrated.

Sadly, that wasn't the case.

It's not that the book didn't have a number of slap-your-knee funny LOLCats; It did. But in my opinion, for some reason, the authors seemed to choose dozens of run-of-the-mill selections rather than page after page of the best the site has ever produced.

I suppose it's possible my expectations were too high, but I don't think so. As an example of the level of overall quality I figured the book would have, I can point you to the book versions of the monumentally popular PostSecret project . There, too, the creator of a site that pulls together user-created entries--in the case of PostSecret, it's postcards with personal secrets sent to site creator Frank Warren's Maryland home--published volumes of the best submissions. But the four PostSecret books positively exude profound human emotion and the painful ironies of human life.

For the most part, the book is filled with mundane LOLCats like this one rather than the side-splittingly funny ones that regularly grace the Web site. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Whereas the I Can Has Cheezburger book feels a lot more to me like the authors went for the more mainstream approach, trying to reach a broader audience with a series of perhaps more accessible, yet not falling-out-of-your-chair funny entries that the general public might not have understood but which seasoned LOLCat fans would eat up.

It's certainly hard to quantify, but a quick read of the book just left me feeling a little empty, and certainly not like I'd just spent the last 45 minutes reading some of the funniest things I'd come across in weeks.

The book does attempt to define some of the most common LOLCat memes, such as "I'm in ur..." Every so often throughout the pages, you encounter facing pages with explanations of those memes.

So, for example, early in the book, you come across the famous LOLCat, "Monorail cat," which features a fluffy cat sitting flat, no limbs visible, on some sort of bar. The explanation below reads, "Monorail Cat: ideel kitteh methud of travelng, tho never on time and often out of servis."

On the facing page are two other Monorail cat examples, one with a cat lying on a bench with one arm poking out that reads, "Monorail cat haz mrgncy airbrak," and the other showing an orange tabby lying sleepily on top of a flat scratching post. Its caption reads, "Monorail kitteh on lift for repares."

The book contains several explanations of some of the more common LOLCat memes, such as 'Monorail cat.' Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

These explanations are handy, I suppose, for folks who are not familiar with LOLCats, and there's several of them scattered throughout the pages.

But on the whole, I wouldn't say they add much.

Still, for those who haven't come across LOLCats much, I think the book probably will be worth more than a few chuckles, and will hopefully lure them to the Web site where they can then experience the daily side-splitting laughter that the best entries from the Icanhascheezburger.com community serves up regularly. I just wish the book's authors had chosen a better selection from the thousands of possibilities at their disposal so that true fans could be rewarded for their loyalty.

 

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