‘Where’s Your Moses Now’?


When walking in the shoes of the fisherman, how does A.J. Jacobs know they're the same size?

And what does he do with the sand and stones in the sandals?

The writer ponders the pebbles as possibilities, not problems: "Sometimes, it's good if you have the sand stay in there."

He should know. He's wiping the floor with his Florsheims, taking a walk on the wily side: The Jewish author/journalist and at-large editor of Esquire is living a larger-than-life schedule these days, jotting in his journal just how well people are taking his The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.

Are guinea pigs kosher?

"No, and I avoided eating them during the experiment," he quips.

His special "K" is kibitzing: It's all a perfect follow-up to The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

In the beginning, there was that book (actually Bible was preceded by The Know-It-All, but his fans probably know that already) in which he lived life by the Ten Commandments (maybe more, as he agrees with Mel Brooks: "They were heavy to carry, so maybe Moses did drop" a tablet or two) and took the Bible's advice, stoning adulterers (or was that adulterating stoners) and never blowing the chance to take a wack at shofar-blowing.

The Bible was his Bible; now, will Variety — the show-business bible — be his book of choice?

Godless Hollywood … got God? They've bought Bible, and are in the process of adapting it for the big screen.

"Of course," jabs Jacobs, "by the time they're through adapting it, it could be all about Buddhism."

But A.J. Jacobs gives credit where credit is due; indeed, roll the credits: "I will give a screen credit to God, and he'll get not quite the 10 percent I have to pay my agent."

Which just shows the reckoning He gets on the Hollywood job list if not on Reckoning Day.

It won't be the first time that Jacobs has gone Hollywood; he once, as he details in his latest book, impersonated "Shine" actor Noah Taylor at the Oscars.

Now, he plays himself, being the first of firsts in the First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, beginning on Nov. 3. This Jewish George Plimpton will plop down his talking points at the Painted Bride in Old City for his appearance on the night of Nov. 7.

And whether Hollywood would or would not have come calling for Bible, Jacobs felt a calling himself.

There were influences, he admits. Writing it and experiencing it "gave me more appreciation for my heritage. I joined a Reform temple — of course, I haven't gone yet. But my wife and I are sending our kids to [Hebrew] school at the synagogue."

So Diaries is no The Source; it's more about outsourcing his life to India, where telephone operators are on call right now to handle his personal peccadilloes.

But there is a new Jewish A.J. after all. Aleph male?

Or is that female: In Diaries, he dares to answer online-dating questions posed for a beautiful female friend of his, busy elsewhere while he mans the Web.

You've got … male?

"It gave me a new appreciation for the way men treat women," and what women have to put up with in online hazing, says Jacobs.

He feels pretty, he feels pretty, it's amazing how pretty he feels … not: What is this, the warped Web version of "Dateline" and its "To Catch a Predator"? A.J. Jacobs, the Jewish Chris Hansen?

But how flinty and flirty he became in the guise of a viral Mrs. Doubtfire, warding off, welcoming advances. After all, you are a beautiful woman, A.J. Jacobs … at least if they don't offer video online: "I'm beginning to believe some of these experiments myself."

Some like it hot: What got his Bunsen burning was the decision — actually, a challenge forced on him by actress Mary-Louise Parker when she was asked to shoot a barely-there magazine cover accompanying a Jacobs article (a sort of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours") — to pose naked himself.

Black and white — and red all about it?

"Actually," he says with mock macho humility, "if you have nude pictures taken, black-and-white looks classier."

Study in stud-liness? Playboy of the Western world?

He didn't make the cover of Playgirl — yes, he concedes, his wife is a wonder woman, dealing with his derring-do as she does — but he did play with the idea of being a Mensa mensch.

In fact, he more than played with it; he made it — "through a loophole," sort of a rabbit punch to the brain.

"They actually put me on the cover of their magazine, Mensa," he says of a project carried off in The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

Oooh, that smarts; but Jacobs has a way to go to outdo his dad, a prolix and prominent lawyer "who holds the world record for the most footnotes in a law-review article (4,824)."

He worships at his feat: "He's written 27 books; I'm trying to live up to him."

And that's the truth — which also lies at the heart of another Guinea Pig experiment: trying to live by the at times creepy credo of Radical Honesty — all truth, all the time. Which means he must be in a pre-prevaricating state of mind when Jacobs — who chops down some cherry trees with his portrayal of the political George Washington in Diaries — says that he's envisioning his next possible project as a combo of what it means to be a beautiful woman serving as a political leader.

And that would be?

"The Year of Living Like Golda Meir," he confesses.

But before they try to fill those orthopedic shoes, there is the question of casting — hold back those stones — for "Bible."

Any preference for an actor to play New Yorker Jacobs with a new appreciation for his inner life? "I think both Angelina and Brad would be perfect for the part," he replies.

Not bad; after all, he could have said Noah Taylor.


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