Thursday, September 6, 2012

This Is Not A Book Review. Really.

"What the heck is your blog about?" I'm often asked. "How come it doesn't look anything like an author's blog? Why don't you write book reviews?"

All good questions, so let me start with the first. As I wrote in my initial post, the entire concept of blogging makes no sense to me. At best, it's a hubristic exercise in conceit and vanity for the undeserving to lay claim to their promised 15 Minutes of Fame; at worst, it is the verbal equivalent of littering on the information superhighway. Nonetheless, I have been shanghaied into the Blogosphere and accepted my fate as a reluctant blogger. (Read that first blog post for the details). In that post, I agreed to write a blog as long as I could write about any topic I wished. My blog has been a mix of social commentary, personal observations, and occasional updates on my books. But no book reviews.

So, I was surprised when one individual asked if he could "write a guest post on my political blog". I informed him, while I had a blog, it was not a political blog. He had mistaken my social commentary as partisan ranting. (Sure, I'll print guest posts, but not partisan diatribes. Here, we stick to issues, not talking points). Others have asked why I don't write book reviews. The answer's simple: I'm not qualified to be a book reviewer. As an author, I write books; I'll leave the reviewing to trained professional reviewers at the New York Times Book Review or to the amateur wannabe reviewers posting third-grade book reports labeled as "book reviews" on Amazon and in countless "book blogs". The closest I've come to penning any reviews has been a movie review of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's Dark Shadows remake (Dark Shadows being a subject in which I have decades of expertise) and the entire month I devoted to The Top TV Dramas You've Never Seen. I hope I never shirk from my commitment to quality blogging and resort to printing a trivial book review, but I would be remiss if I did not pass on the occasional tidbit to my loyal blog readers when I stumble across something they might enjoy reading. And that brings me to the subject of today's blog.

I'm in the process of reading DC's Sugar and Spike Archives, Volume One. Did I write "reading"? Change that to savoring. This is a long awaited treat that is truly for all ages. The stories are written and drawn by the legendary Sheldon Mayer, who was also responsible for one of my favorite comic books, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (Hint: DC, republish Mayer's Rudolph stories in a deluxe archive edition and I'll even pre-order it!). Mayer's Rudolph was a masterpiece, due primarily to the incredible anthropomorphic artistic expressions he gave to the various reindeer. It's taken me years to acquire most of the original comics, which were published from around 1950 to 1963. Mayer was also responsible for another childhood favorite, The Three Mouseketeers (picture mice wielding sewing needles as swords). I could devote an entire post to the genius of Sheldon Mayer -- writer, artist and editor -- but for now, I wish to focus on Sugar and Spike.

Sugar and Spike are are toddlers who communicate with each other through baby talk -- a language grownups cannot understand. Likewise, they are clueless about ordinary English. The stories are written and drawn from the toddlers' perspectives: the artwork shows the world at Sugar and Spike's eye level, so expect to see a lot of grownup knees and feet but few adult faces; and the stories are written employing "kid logic". My favorite example is when Sugar, the little girl, tells her friend Spike, the little boy, she has discovered a magic grownup phrase that will get them out of trouble no matter what mischief they've been up to. Sugar demonstrates by yanking a tablecloth off a table, shattering several dishes, and swinging on some curtains, causing the curtain rod to fly off the wall. A visiting neighbor responds to the crashes but when she enters the room, Sugar gazes up innocently and utters the magic grownup words "I sowwy". The woman is so thrilled to hear the little girl speak English by uttering "I'm sorry" that she immediately rushes off to tell Sugar's mother her child is learning to talk, dismissing the damage. Spike is duly impressed by how effective the magic phrase was. "Okay, so it worked. But what does it mean?" he asks. Sugar whispers in his ear, "I think it means 'The cat did it.'" Spike ruminates. "Hmmm... that makes sense."

Later, when a man accidentally slams his car into the fence in front of Spike's house, he apologizes to Spike's mother and offers to pay for its repair. But the kids are outraged when they overhear him say "I'm sorry." An angry Sugar exclaims, "What a nerve! He's blaming it on the cat!"

To quote the book's foreword: "Mayer was shooting for an audience of all ages, providing them with insights into two mischievous minds struggling to figure out (and get around) the rules of a strange land governed by large, imperious creatures who could not understand them." Buy this book for your kids. Buy this book for yourself to recapture the magic of winsome nostalgia. Or simply buy it to persuade DC to republish future volumes in the series. And remember, this was not a book review. I don't do that stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Keith, I LOVED your book review** of Sugar and Spike!! Although, you forgot to mention how many stars, cupcakes, butterflies, magical elves, kissy-poos, etc you would rate it ...

    **hahahahahahaha I'm sowwy ;D