Monthly Archives: April 2011

Remaindered: Rhinoceros Success (1980)

One of the best courses I took in grad school was a survey of self-help literature, and I’ve looked over many books in the success/self-help genre. Self-help authors are incredibly aware of how the genre works and what books have preceded them, and as a result most of them are formulaic and blur together in an acronym-filled, seven steps towards (blank) becoming (blank) in (blank) days, mess. Occasionally, a self-help work will stand out from the pack as Scott Alexander’s book did for me at a used bookstore in SoCal. What’s Alexander’s take on success in all areas of your life? Become a rhinoceros. Really.

When you start making your way through the book you expect Scott Alexander to leave the “You are a Rhino!” gimmick at any moment, but he never does. From cover to cover (with numerous illustrations), from health to money to love, everything is explained to you in terms of being a Rhino, and the reader is constantly addressed as one. (Fear not, Christian readers, Alexander also encourages his Rhinos to tithe and read the Bible.)

It doesn’t even stop with this one title. In the back of the book Alexander offers his “Rhinoceros Newsletter” and two other books, “Advanced Rhinocerology” and “Rhinocerotic Relativity.”

Amazingly, Scott Alexander has kept up with the rhino shtick for over THIRTY years (allegedly selling an absurd  3 million copies of his three books), and has bravely, um, charged onto the internet with a Twitter account and a blog. Since I picked up this book several years ago I’ve noticed here and there a few “enthusiastic” (i.e. pick-up truck with back windshield covered with  a giant decal) small business owners who have the word “Rhino” in their business’ name. Since I never see comparable animals included in random business names, like “Giraffe Bakery” or “Hippo Accounting and Tax Prep,” I’m assuming that these are successful adherents to the Rhino philosophy. I may scoff, but with “Rhino Realty” or “Rhino Window Washing” out there in the world,  Scott Alexander apparently has a posse herd.

-The Filled Slip