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Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is not intended to be a weekly segment designed to permit us adults a self-congratulatory pat on the back for writing (or being of the same species and age bracket as the writers), reading, and appreciating (or pretending to) books that look like they're meant for kids but are really meant for adults in the same way that Shrek was not REALLY meant for kids but permitted all the adults the rare opportunity to smugly enjoy a movie with--or in spite of--their children and laugh covertly at the potty humor, and all the while claiming quality family time.  Not that that's all so bad.

In fact, just to show that I don't have a problem with patting myself on the back, I present two "children's" publications from the McSweeney's house (and I hereby promise that there will never be more than one further McSwy's recommendation from a Wednesday installment (even if it comes on a Thursday like this)), both of which gloriously brine in the bubbly mire of their own self-congratulatory, smug, eye-winking I'm-for-kids-but-not-really-ness.

And they're great!

But not for kids.

Want proof (more than the attribution on the back of the book, "Lemony Snicket is an alleged children's author")?  I just made it through 24.5 pages of the 43-page The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket, with my daughter when she looked at me, sighed dramatically, and said, "This is a loo-ong story, huh, Daddy?" (though she did very much enjoy the screaming ("AAAHHHHHHHH!!!") of the little, Jewish, potato pancake).

Basically, this book is, like all books for "The Holidays," about the spirit of this very festive season, which we so stereotypically miss or skip, and this particular entry bedazzled with a dash of sarcastic reality to Jews and Christians, as well as the unaffiliated, alike, seemingly pointing out that religious factions be you-know-what and can't we all just get along?  Further, and more humorously, there's a wondrously rogue squirrel in a Santa hat who pops up throughout, apparently laughing at us.

The book is beautiful and small.  It smell nice, the way a book should, and the way any book put out by McSwy's inevitably is.  Sarcastically pedantic, efficiently illustrated (by Lisa Brown, no less, who approaches illustration more like an interior designer than a lofty artist (thank goodness)), and hysterically irreverent, this book, in its holiday capacity, is great enough to merit a worthy spot right alongside your copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Get it.  Read it.  Even to your kids.  Understand and appreciate it like they certainly won't until they're more like you.

My second recommendation for this inaugural entry is forever connected in my mind with that of the screaming latke, not for any significant, metaphoric reason, but because I bought them at together, and I'm not going to waste paragraphs of your time breaking this one down at all, much less a little bit.  Instead, I merely acknowledge that the book comes highly recommended by real critics, of which I am not one, and I can sum it up in just a few simple nominatives:

  1. George Saunders (doing a "KIDS'" BOOK!),
  2. Lane Smith (in uber-lane-smith-to-the-max mode (remember everything he did with that Scieszka dude?),
  3. goats, and
  4. gappers in a
  5. fable.


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