Daniel Pinkwater – Lizard Music (umpteenth re-read)
LIZARD MUSIC, y’all. I was feeling an urge to re-read, and I’d been drooling over the NYRB’s recent maximum class edition with the geometric lizard cover, so I found a copy of that at Powell’s.
It’s always hard to decide which part of this book to explain to people, so maybe just a cluster of thoughtlets is in order.
- When I read this for the first time (age what, 11?), it seemed subversive as hell. It’s about a young kid in a modern milieu navigating the world on his own, caring for himself, doing just fine at it, and considering and then rejecting consensus reality. That amazed me, at the time. I still think it’s kind of special and rare.
- It just occurred to me that this book probably inoculated me against Catcher in the Rye disease. I read that one in high school, and it was a pretty OK book, but since Victor from Lizard Music had already given me a model for radically protecting your individuality in a kinda busted world, my reaction to Holden was basically “Oh, so he’s kind of like the kid from Lizard Music, except also a raging asshole.” So thanks, Daniel Pinkwater, for probably helping me Not Be That Guy. And straight up, “pod people” is so much less self-aggrandizing than “phonies” it’s not even funny. I mean, it shouldn’t be, but it ends up having this sort of “there but for the grace of god go I” element that makes all the difference.
- I refer you to rushthatspeaks’ consideration of Pinkwater as the greatest living surrealist, especially the bit about Daumal’s Mount Analogue being a real thing (WHAT) (yes I definitely have that on hold from the library).
- I refer you to the bit below from Fish Whistle (WHAT).
Martha Wells – Emilie and the Hollow World
This is Wells’s first YA book, and it’s quite good. The main character is totally hardcore and there is no romance plot, BAM. The story is an old-fashioned boys’ adventure book plot minus the boys, which is kinda great — stow away on a fantastical voyage to the center of the earth, meet weird new cultures both friendly and dangerous, battle dastardly saboteurs, kick some ass, gain the respect and backup of people older and way cooler than you, and don’t go home at the end. Echoes of some H.G. Wells sorta elements in there, too.
Oh, and I don’t want to oversell this element, but it was refreshing to me that, when in the capital city of the technologically not-at-their-level merfolk, the protagonists were actually like “Yo, maybe let’s not rule out the possibility that these guys are politically sophisticated and we’re getting played for chumps here.”
Daniel Pinkwater – Fish Whistle
I’ve been meaning to read more of Pinkwater’s fiction, but this collection of his NPR commentaries and assorted writings fell into my lap first. (It was free on Kindle a few months back.)
It’s charming as heck and occasionally quite wise, well worth a read if you’ve enjoyed any other Pinkwater. But the main thing I took away was that the Chicken Man, a central character from Lizard Music, was… apparently 100% real?!!?!!?! This is obviously some kind of glitch in the matrix.