Fuse #8

Monday, February 13, 2006

Meet Philip Nel

The nice thing about being twenty-seven is that I'm still young and stupid enough to think it's a good idea to use the old I-haven't-grown-enough-to-know-who-this-person-is excuse when I stumble across someone I don't know. In this particular case, Philip Nel. Ever heard of him? Those of you who are well aware of Mr. Nel's great booming swath of accomplishments know what to expect. I, innocent as the day is young, hadn't a clue.

Now because I am employed at a library that gets lots of yummy nummy review copies of books, I was fascinated by a recent donation. Time Magazine donated the books they had considered for their 2005 best books of the year list and amongst them was "The Magic Beach" by Crockett Johnson. This long dead author of the "Harold and the Purple Crayon" books (or "Barnaby" for the coots amongst you) once attempted to write a book that was a kind of Fisher King T.S. Elliotish conglomeration on the meaning of fiction. As you can imagine, kids were not exactly the primary audience here. Enter Philip Nel.

Voila le Nel:

Cute, no? Don't let these boyish good looks fool you, though. Mr. Nel is apparently flirting with children's literature. The flirtation isn't complete, of course. Though he's done work on J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Crockett Johnson (as well as getting a bit published in a 1999 "Children's Literature") he does not teach the subject. With his interest on Rowling at the peak of her fame and Seuss around recent resurgance in attention, one might be so cynical as to wonder whether or not Nel has written books about them simply from a limelight point of view. However his interest in Crockett throws a neat wrench in that theory. I don't see Crockett Johnson becoming the next saucy bio-pic ("I see Kevin Spacey as David Leisk", says my internal producer) or subject of a tell-all biography ("He published two original mathematical theorems!!!").

What I can't figure out for the life of me is where "The Magic Beach", newly republished with an Afterword by Nel came from. Nel says he found the original drawings of the Smithsonian Institution. So is he solely responsible for the publication of "The Magic Beach" or not so much?

Methinks an e-mail is in order... mwa ha ha!


At 11:50 PM , Blogger Philip Nel said...

Thank you for this ... unusual nomination. I'm not sure what to say. Looking at some of the authors who've been nominated since, I am pleased to see that you've raised your standards. Or perhaps you've acquired a better pair of eyeglasses. Well, either way, the list certainly improves after the first entry (me).

Also, a correction. You say that "he does not teach the subject." But I do teach the subject. Since coming to Kansas State University in 2000, I've taught nineteen sections of "Literature for Children," five of "Literature for Adolescents," six of "Harry Potter's Library: J. K. Rowling, Texts and Contexts," as well as several more "special topics" courses on such subjects as Children's Literature and the Left, 20th Century American Picturebooks, and Dr. Seuss. You can find syllabi in the "Courses" section of my website: http://www.ksu.edu/english/nelp

Finally, congratulations! A recent email from Kane/Miller Book Publishers notes that you've acquired a paid blogging gig with School Library Journal. Well done!

Best regards,

Philip Nel

At 2:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've a few regrets in this life. One of them is that this old blog site doesn't alert me to new comments. In any case, many thanks for the compliment Mr. Nel and I apologize for getting my facts wrong. I can't imagine why I thought you didn't teach. Seems an odd thing to say about anyone. Ah well. You were my first HMOCL, and I tip my hat to you, sir. Now I'm off to read your Cat in the Hat book . . . .


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