Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bark, George By Jules Feiffer


I was at a dinner party speaking with a man wearing nothing but a codpiece who suddenly said to me, “Writing children’s books is easy. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run. Go screw yourself, Spot.”

So I punched the man and was escorted out of the party by police, but that is not the point of my story. The point is that, to me at least - and I’m an admitted maniac, alcoholic, and serial flasher – but good children’s anything will entertain adults as well, whether it’s literature, television, cough syrup or what have you.

The wife and I are so lazy and cheap these days that we get but three PBS channels on our adorable little television set. And we have a one year old so we watch a hell of a lot of PBS Kids. They have quite a bit of garbage on there that no child or adult should watch (For example, if you ever come in contact with something called It’s a Big, Big World, grab the nearest sharp object and begin poking at your eyes and ears relentlessly. You’ll thank me).

But there are indeed some absolutely delightful programs that the old lady and I enjoy watching with the kiddo, such as Martha Speaks, Curious George, and, of course, Sesame Street.

This brings me to Jules Feiffer. Not the character from Pulp Fiction. His name was Winnfield, like the Hall-of-Fame ballplayer Dave only with an additional “N.” This Jules is the very talented cartoonist, author, screenwriter and playwright. Whether or not he’s the father and/or uncle of actresses Michelle and Dedee, who disgraced the wonderful family name by adding a “p” to it, I do not know. I’m still trying to get a blood sample from both ladies, so stay tuned.

Now I must admit I have been cohabitating in a cave for a number of years with a family of grizzlies. Thus I was unfamiliar with Feiffer’s body of work: his famous comic strip, his Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartooning, that he wrote the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge.

That’s right, Carnal Knowledge. This is who we need writing our children’s books in the 21st century.

This fantastic man’s biography escaped me like an illegal on the border. But when we found ourselves in the possession of a wonderful children’s book titled Bark, George – well, let me just say I’ve read nothing else since our son was born.

It is a work of genius in children’s literature and makes me want to hop on my Big Wheel and buy more of this man’s books. Haven’t done that yet, but I will. And soon, believe you me. Whatever that means. I never understood that phrase. Who am I believing exactly? You? Myself? Go away!

Anyway, the basic plot, and I won’t give you any spoilers, is that George’s mother tries to get him to bark, but instead he meows, oinks, and quacks – anything but what a dog is supposed to do. So she takes him to the vet and hilarity ensues.

All books ought to be Bark, George, and if you’re a parent and you’re not reading this modern classic to your son or daughter then I have no choice but to send Child Protective Services to your house and have those little tykes taken from you immediately.

There is no finer book on our shelf, and we have The Joy of Sex, three Bibles, and about 1,000 Which Way Books. So you know I mean business.

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