Fuse #8

Monday, April 10, 2006

Watch your thumbs

We're all familiar with Slovenly Peter, yes? No? Well if we are not then we need to get acquainted rather quickly with this most peculiar of German creations for the kiddies. Fortunately a recent NPR piece on an adaptation of the story clears up a lot of the details.

I was a huge fan of the play Shockheaded Peter which ran in New York for a brief span of time last year. The book itself is peculiar, no doubt, and has probably done more to inspire the creative horror genre than any other children's book. Aside from Love You Forever, of course.


At 1:14 PM , Blogger Becky said...

I know old Peter well because my grandmother was Viennese and from the time I was a tot, she'd read me her old copy.

Maybe because I got used to the book early on, it didn't have the creep factor for me that "Love You Forever" does. I wasn't familiar with LYF, thank goodness, till I started having kids and people felt compelled to give them copies as presents, no doubt because we, like Munsch, are Canadians (well, I'm half; I left my other half on the Upper West Side near Zabar's). I can't think of more horrifying gift for a newborn.

In fact, I've "donated" every single copy of LYF, along with most of the other Munsch books, we've received -- inscriptions artfully stickered or bookplated out -- to the library, tee hee. I'm an avid regifter but I can't see traumatizing any kid I already like.

At 9:46 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Awesome! I've never met anyone who actually had "Peter" read to them as a child. Technically I've never actually met anyone who had LYF read to them as a child either. Of the two, I'd have to cast my lot in with the "Peter" crowd. At least that book could be turned into an amusing stageplay.

At 10:00 PM , Blogger Chris Barton said...

Don't count LYF out as a potential stageplay. If they can do it with Grey Gardens, they can do it with anything.

At 10:13 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh I HEARD about that! Isn't it crazy? And now they're turning it into a major motion picture starring Drew Barrymore. The moral of the story is that "Grey Gardens" should be turned into a picture book. Then we've come full circle

At 11:23 PM , Blogger Becky said...

Don't even whisper such a thing. Maria Shriver is probably thinking about it as we speak. If only she and Katie Couric could be prevented from attempting picture books ever again (as I snarked over at Book Moot the other day)...

At 9:08 AM , Blogger Louise said...

I think I may have to start tracking the frequency with which you mention this dislike for poor Love You Forever :) I don't remember it being spectacular, but I don't remember it being that bad either. I will have to re-read it and get back to you.

Thanks for the post on Slovenly Peter - looks like fun!

At 12:42 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Yeah, I know. One of these days Robert Munsch is gonna come by my library and deliver a swift punch to my nose. I just can't resist putting that puppy down though. I mean, it's just your average syrupy sweet picture book at first. But then you see the ladder on the roof of the old mother's car and that just takes the book to an entirely different level.

At 5:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up with Struwwelpeter (child of German Jews that I am). My sister and I were fascinated, but not frightened by it. It seemed funny in a weird way. Last year I got a tour of the Strewwelpeter Museum in Frankfurt which was fascinating. It is worth learning the history of the book as Hoffmann was actually trying to make a different kind of children's books, both moralistic and subversive a bit. In the museum I saw some works by school children reinterpreting the verses as well as many different variations both in terms of illustration and parodies. I've a few at home myself.

For me Strewwelpeter is part of a sort of German book, dark and funny and scary --- Wilhelm Busch (Max and Moritz) is a master at this.

One think I don't see is Strewwelpeter in the same tradition os Love You Forever. Hoffmann is somewhat ironic, but Munch? And back to Strewwelpeter, my favorite English translation is Mark Twain's. Here's a link to a 1935 NY Times review of that version: http://www.twainquotes.com/19351117.html


At 7:08 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I was being more than a little ironic with the pairing of Hoffmann with Munch. Though I have heard people say that Munch meant his book to be taken as a joke. I don't buy it, myself. I only mentioned it in the same passage as Strewwelpeter because the horror that some parents feel towards Hoffmann's classic is akin to what I feel when I see that extension ladder on the roof of the station wagon in LYF. But what a wonderful post and fabulous link. Methinks a further Strewwelpeter posting is in order.


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