Signing American Nerd: The Story of My People (Scribner), author Benjamin Nugent presents a rather complex poser: What's a nerd? Is it someone who's fashionable and attractive and really only slumming, like at the end of Revenge of the Nerds III or most issues of Vice? Is it that grimy, twitchy loner you poked with tin snips in shop class who later wiped out the local Steak & Ale and/or won the lottery? Or are they lifelong outcasts whose single-minded manias propel the world into a yet more uncertain future? Paul Feig, creator of TV's Freaks and Geeks, calls American Nerd “the coolest book about nerds ever written.” Nugent, whose previous book was Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing, ventures deep into nerd territory, interviewing everyone from ham-radio experts and RenFaire habitués to Dungeons & Dragons winners and professional video-game players. Nugent deftly and engagingly exposes the nerd ideal, and the heartbreak that comes with the realization that Jaleel White played a nerd for five years and drives a Murciélago, while most real nerds play nerds 24/7 and drive Pacers. I know, I know — you're reading all this and thinking, “Wow, what a nerd.”

Fri., June 19, 7:30 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly