“You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”   (Maurice Sendak)

It’s hard to imagine, in a world where we have children’s literature (ahem) with titles like Zombie Butts From Uranus, and The Fart Book: Whiff it, Sniff it, Lay it, Rip it! – Milo Snotrocket’s Gross-out Guide to Thunderpants and Toilet Tunes and Go the F*** to Sleep [1], that Where the Wild Things Are caused a bit o’ controversy when it was first published in 1963.

Some parents said that the book’s illustrations of fanged and clawed, googly-eyed creatures were too grotesque and frightening for a children’s book.  Of course, most children (and adults) thought otherwise, and Maurice Sendak’s tale of imaginative Max’s journey is now a beloved classic. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication by giving a copy to a child of any age who doesn’t have one, or break out your own well-thumbed copy for a re-read, and let the wild rumpus begin.

*   *   *

“F**k them is what I say. I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a s**t.”      (Maurice Sendak)

With all apologies to the late, great Maurice, spinning (slowly, naturally, without the aid of technology) in his grave: I gave up (in?) and bought an eReader.

We had one in the family: MH’s birthday gift, from K and Belle and I, was a Nook .  When searching for MH’s gift I’d researched the various models available, and went with the recommendations of a techie whose name I cannot recall.  Also, I liked the Dr. Seuss-ish sound of the device.

Dead tree scrolls I’ve not forsook
Since I broke down and bought a Nook.
I like to read by hook or crook [2]
and when I look open up the Nook
I’m treated to a new ebook.

seuss hat

It turned out to be quite the popular device.  Belle used money from her after school job at Noodles & Company and bought herself the same version as MH.  I had leftover gift $$ to spend (thanks, Mom!) and got the HD version for me, as I want to be able to see hamster and whistle and other images from The Mighty Quinn’s cover page in glorious e-color.

*   *   *

Inauguration, schmauguration

(written on Monday, January 21: There are going to be two prayers during President Obama’s inaugural ceremony: an invocation and a benediction. I will not watch today’s ceremony, for that reason.

Various Christian conservatives are arguing over what it means to have the first “lay person” (i.e. non-clergy, first woman, to boot) give the invocation [3] and a non-evangelical [4] blather the benediction they.  As always, they miss the point.  There should be no argument because there should be no deity-invoking in a secular procedure.

The founders of our nation, when forming the nation’s governing document, made it god-free.  Religion is mentioned merely twice in the U.S. Constitution, and then only in exclusionary terms:

-“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3)

-“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” (from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)

The United States is the most diverse country on the planet in terms of world view or belief systems.  Twenty percent of us are the “nones” (freethinkers, humanists, Brights, atheists/agnostics or the “non-affiliated”); the rest of us claim affiliation with denominations described [5] as mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, historically black churches, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “other Christian,” Orthodox, Hindu, Wiccan, “other world religions” and “other faiths.”  One of the few things people pledging allegiance to different religious beliefs can claim in common is their willingness to be live in this country and be united through our system of governance.

The presidential oath of office, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular, in accordance with our secular democracy.  There is no mandate nor even mention of placing a hand on (anyone’s) scriptures; no “so help me God”:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,
and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them. Yet once the religious verbiage got appended in the inaugural oath, woe unto those who might consider removing it (surely, that would be evidence that they are Kenyan socialists!).  And so Obama, like every pandering politician president since Chester Arthur in 1881, will follow suit, and place his hand on a collection of monarchy-upholding, Bronze Age fables one particular version of one particular denomination’s scriptures, and by doing so he’ll violate the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it.

*   *   *

Beware literary journals helmed by MFAs [6]:

I have a file, once hard copy, now on my computer, labeled Most Pretentious Writers Guidelines.[7]  Always happy to add another entry to the file, my happiness was doubled this week, when I came across the following as I was checking out a journal that had put out a call for material.  The first blurb is from the journal’s how-we-journal-came-to-be description, the second from their About the Editors listing:

Several members of the editorial board of “The Lofty Spleen Review”[8] are graduates of the prestigious MFA in Creative Writing program at Pompeux College, one of the top five programs of its kind in the nation.  As a highly educated, highly motivated group…. 

Editor Richard Knoggin[9]  completed his M.F.A degree in Creative Writing at the prestigious Pompeux College of Cleftpan, Iowa.[10] The low-residency program he attended is rated as one of the top five in the nation….

Yeah, I get it.  Y’all think highly of your pretentious prestigious, highly educated selves.

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot immediately!
(Douglas Noel Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

*   *   *

Happy reading.  May hilarity ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Okay, so this title is not marketed at children.  Way too funny to share it with them.

[2] Obscure Anglo/Irish expression of disputed origins meaning “by any means necessary.”

[3] Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights hero Medgar Evers.

[4] Rev. Luis Leon, a liberal pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

[5] By organizations that keep track of such things; e.g., The Pew Charitable Trusts & Religious Tolerance

[6] Use your best Mr. Rogers voice: “Can you say, prestigious?  I knew you could! Now see if you can find a reason to use it, as many times as you can.”

[7] Writers guidelines, for those of you sane enough to be non-writers or those unacquainted with the term, are guidelines from a journal or publishing house that specify their requirements for material from writers.

[8] Not the journal’s real name.

[9] Not the editor’s real name.

[10] Not the college’s real name or location.  Except in my dreams.