Fuse #8

Monday, November 27, 2006

Didja Miss Me?


That was a more than welcome relief. Thanksgiving break is a glorious time, and I feel refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to gulp down a couple more books in my gi-normous stack of To Be Reads. Greensboro, NC is (as always) hopping. Aforementioned baby Alexa is shown here, thereby securing her place as the world's easiest-baby-to-put-to-sleep:


While in NC I happened to stop by my brother-in-law's workplace and saw some sheets of an upcoming Joss Whedon graphic novel (not the Buffy one) that were being inked. I also stopped by the downtown Greensboro Public Library, and its children's room is magnificent. They've a great display of a lot of new titles for perusal and though I questioned the fact that the teen and children's sections are still in one room (a very large room, at that) it was renovated just 7 years ago and looks fab. If you happen to be in that part of the country, please do yourself a favor and check it out.

So what did I get you while I was away? Not much, admittedly. I was mostly too busy being inadvertently rude to my in-laws by sticking my nose in book after book after book (though everyone was very nice about it). However, these two delicious tidbits have come to my attention. I may attempt to post more as the day goes on too (though undoubtedly everything I tell you will be old hat, yes?).

While driving down from NYC, I had my trusty Onion at my side. I have this fantasy where The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Onion join forces. In this dream, The Onion becomes a continuous crawl at the bottom of the screen of the two shows. Until that happy day occurs, however, I'll have to continue to get at least some of my fake news in a print format.

So I'm reading about the Cat In the Hat 1997 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float disaster, Guitar Hero 2 (awesome), and Grey Gardens: The Musical when I stumble on a little section entitled, "Tips For a Tryptophan Buzz". Here, since the article is not online, is what it had to say:

Read The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine
A bizarre and long out-of-print children's book by the post-modern fiction writer Donald Barthelme, The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine has just been reissued in a nice hardcover edition by The Overlook Press. Calling it a "children's book" is reductive, though kids with a mind for weird word stews will find much to thrill over when not fixating on artful images culled from old Victorian wood-cuts. One page shows a pirate knitting on a rocking chair beside a Buddha on an urn; another features elephants tumbling through the air. Yet another includes a decorous French wine menu that could well be used as a checklist as your evening grows long.
A quick trip to Amazon and faith and begorra, thar she blows. The book's description varies a little from The Onion's recap.
From the brilliant mind of Donald Barthelme, the National Book Award-winning tale for children of all ages.

One morning in 1887, Mathilda went out into the back yard and discovered that a mysterious Chinese house had planted itself there overnight. She had wanted a fire engine, but the mysterious Chinese house was intriguing too. From inside came strange sounds: growls, howls, whispering, trumpeting.

Plucky Mathilda walks right in. She finds all sorts of peculiar things: a sulky captured pirate, a giant popcorn-popping machine, an elephant that falls downhill once a day—truly "every kind of flawless flourishy footlooseness." Mathilda gets to see everything in every room, guided by the hithering thithering djinn, who even arranges to leave her a souvenir that is just about exactly what she wanted.

Renowned author Donald Barthelme presents Mathilda’s escapade in a witty and whacky text with collage illustrations made entirely from nineteenth-century engravings. It’s a unique, fun, and ultimately wonderful book.
If Amazon is to be believed, then this book won a National Book Award about 1972 and was FSG's original baby. Wikipedia says that Barthelme (long repressed memories of having to read Snow White in college are coming back to me) wrote it with his daughter, though who knowing the site I can't vouch for its accuracy. I do wonder who the marketing force behind this puppy is if it got into The Onion but hasn't appeared elsewhere in the news that I've seen. The kicker for me was that not only does my library branch have a copy of the original, but we even have a circulating copy that, none too surprisingly, is out at the moment. Cool, eh?

In other news, NPR's website has a great little piece on a newly minted National Book Award winner, November 24th, entitled M.T. Anderson: Eats Broccoli, Paces and Hums. As titles go, this could have stood a rewrite, perhaps. The site is called Novel Ideas and in honor of National Novel Writing Month NPR asked fiction writers, "to explain the essence of creating a novel, from how they write to their approach to writer's block." So while I was looking at Anderson's I saw that they'd done one on Blue Balliett as well as Nancy Werlin (who wins the Cutest Authorial Picture Award), and Jeanne Birdsall (remember The Penderwicks?). And who do I have to thank for bringing this to my attention? None other than the author of the amazing and beautiful Frankenstein Made a Sandwich, Adam Rex. Thank you, Mr. Rex. Not a bad link to come home to.


At 3:15 AM , Blogger Disco Mermaids said...

Glad you're back, Fuse. I was missing all of your great insider info. Thanks for jumping back in!

- Jay

At 10:12 AM , Blogger Brooke said...

Hey, thanks for the tip on The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine. I didn't know it was back in print -- this is definitly fodder for a Forgotten Bookshelf review.

Welcome back!

At 1:52 PM , Blogger John Rozum said...

I've wondered if the text came first, or if it was written around the found artwork. Any ideas?

At 1:57 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

None whatsoever. I'd love additional info, including background on WHO wanted it republished so badly. Who's involved at Overlook Press? I'll have to grab our copy to answer these questions, I guess.

At 9:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howdy, stranger! Welcome back.

That's a lot to digest (no pun intended). But, most pressing to me: the Joss Whedon graphic novel you saw... by any chance was it Marvel's The Runaways? I'd heard he was taking over writing that one... and I dearly love it, and have very high hopes now.

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

Ha HA! Good call. You guessed it. The pages, still in their uncolored form, were sitting there ready to have every tiny little detail inked in. That's the cool thing about having a brother-in-law who's in the inking biz. You get behind-the-scenes previews of this kind of work. In any case, the book (which is to say, the seven panels I saw of it) looks quite enticing.

At 12:15 AM , Blogger Kelly said...

That's the cutest baby ever, Fuse!

At 9:27 PM , Blogger Grace Lin said...

okay, your niece is very, very cute especially on the pumpkins. I might have to say it's a tie with mine.


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