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5 Novels

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the collecting-together-some-of-his-works dept.

News 43

Sebbo, lately of our review of The Big U is taking a crack at five of Daniel Pinkwater's books which have been gathered together in one. The stories are: Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars; Slaves of Spiegel; The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; The Last Guru; and Young Adult Novel. Pinkwater is a great author - click below to learn more; or if you have read any of them, contribute to the discussion!


Let's say you're in high school. Worse yet, let's say you're in junior high school. The other kids mostly ignore you, and occasionally pick on you. The teachers are about the same. The schoolwork is tedious, and Gym is a nightmare. There seems to have been some sort of terrible mixup; you're the only human in a school full of Martians, or perhaps the other way around.

But you have a secret--a message in a bottle, a communique from your fellow aliens outside your prison. There's hope--there are others; weirdos like you. You've discovered the novels of Daniel Pinkwater.


Pinkwater's a prolific writer and occasional illustrator, and has cranked out dozens of children's books, a couple dozen Young Adult novels, numerous books-on-tape, a couple essay collections, a dog-training guide, an adult novel, and at least one comic strip collection in the last 30 years. 5 Novels is a collection of his work from the early '80s. How they were picked I have no idea. The works in question are: Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars; Slaves of Spiegel; The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; The Last Guru; and Young Adult Novel. There's not much to say about the collection itself: it's a decently bound trade paperback. The foreword by Jules Feiffer is charming, but not particularly insightful, and not quite two pages long. The variation in fonts among the books suggests that very little alteration was done from the original printings before sending the collection to press.

The books are aimed at teenagers, but that's certainly not their only audience. I read Young Adult Novel to a group of 20 30-ish Boston geeks earlier this month, and they loved it and clamored for more. If the portrait at the beginning of this piece is familiar from any point in your life, I think you'll get something out of Pinkwater now.


The most evident thing about Pinkwater's writing is the goofy sense of humor, as one can guess from a glance at the titles. Much of his humor derives from a childlike delight in inherently absurd objects, such as avocados. Bizzarre place names or background characters, like the town of Hogboro or the McTavish's Pickleburgers fast food chain often will reoccur from book to book. The Hoboken Chicken Emergencyclopedia is an attempt by a fan to to catalogue these references, along with everything else mentioned in Pinkwater's book.

Another source of humor is absurd justapositions of the fantastic and mundane, such as the marauding space pirates who invariably wear plaid sportscoats and white plastic shoes. A third vein is the puncturing of authority.

Adults in Pinkwater's world are--at best--pretentious buffoons. In Alan Mendelsohn, for example, first the occult bookseller Samuel Klugarsh, then the Venusian motorcyclist Clarence Yojimbo, and then the astral traveller Lance Hergeschleimer are first admired by the story's heroes, but soon prove less clever, honest, and resourceful than themselves. Teachers are overbearing petty tyrants, bored clock-punchers, or raving lunatics. Parents pursue their own petty obsessions in blithe ignorance of their children's lives. They appear in these books as inert and mostly useless creatures, like enormous ambulatory vegetables endowed with the authority to set bedtimes, but lacking the wit to effectively enforce them.

The ideal Pinkwater novel would go like this: short, fat kid of above-average but not exceptional intelligence is lonely, picked-on, and bored at high school. He makes friends with a somewhat more flamboyant and self-confident peer, and together they have adventures that discover a more strange, beautiful and exciting world than had previously been revealed to them. This is a composite picture, and most of his books don't have all those exact elements, but these are recurring themes.

Girls are generally conspicuously absent from this picture, with Rat, the James Dean-obsessed punk rocker of the Snarkout books (who our heroes find immensely intimidating) a notable exception. The important relationships are male friendships.

Dangers in Pinkwater's world come from the familiar, not the strange. Characters may be beaten-up or humiliated by their classmates, but the threats of the outside world are always mild by comparison. The master criminal in The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death immerses his enemies in vats of warm egg fu yung or forces them to watch old German comedy reels. The interdimensional tyrants Mannie, Moe, and Jack in Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars administer kicks in the tush to those who oppose them. The teenage protaganists prowl the streets of the city's seedier districts late at night sometimes with a little nervousness, but never any real sense of danger.

Virtually all Pinkwater characters have their distinctive obsessions, which they carry to the point of mania: collecting comic books, building model ships, making home movies, macrobiotic cooking, fleegix appreciation (fleegix is kinda like hot chocolate, and immensely popular on the planet of Waka-Waka), or snarking out (sneaking out to attend the midnight double bill at the Snark theater).

Place is very important to Pinkwater, and his Chicago upbringing suffuses the way he writes about it. Just as his characters are in conflict with the blowdried, athletic and suntanned culture around them, so they seek out landscapes that offer escape from the strip mall and housing development architecture that reflects that culture. They find them in the older, grittier city of brick buildings and narrow, twisting streets that lies beneath and surrounded by the shinier metropolis that sprung up around it. In Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, the narrator, Leonard Neeble, describes a return to his old neighborhood in Hogboro after having moved out to the suburb of West Kangaroo Park.

We stopped and looked in the window of the fish store. All the fish were lying dead on the crushed ice, except some crabs who were feebly waving their claws around. It smelled good. It was a good fish store. Everything was fresh. There was seaweed packed between some of the fish. People in West Kangaroo Park must think that fish came out of the sea frozen and packed in little square boxes.

The stories can be read as fables about the liberating power of fantasy. The characters excape from a world of deadening tedium and threat into one of excitement where they are included and admired, which eventually allows them to cope better with the mundane world

I wouldn't go too far with that, though. Pinkwater shows a laudable aversion for anything smacking of preachiness or "relevance." Here's the raciest passage from the book: "Rat was pretty outspoken. She had a lot of things to say about James Dean and the things she would have been willing to do with him and with no one else, if only he had not died. Winston and I got the impression that Rat knew a lot more about sex than we did, so we kept off the subject in order not to appear ignorant."

The Books

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

An excellent introduction to Pinkwater's work. Leonard Neeble's parents move from their city apartment to a ranch house in the suburbs, and Neeble finds himself at Bat Masterson Jurnior High School, where "'all you have to do is not look like everybody else, and you're instant garbage.'" He falls in with Alan Mendelsohn, an abrasive and geeky boy from the Bronx, with the odd habit of telling random people that he's actually a Martian. After a visit to an occult bookstore, they learn the secrets of mind control, but after a day of giving teachers uncontrollable cigarette joneses and making classmates trip over their own feet, they soon get bored and move on to interdimensional travel. The inhabitants of the first other dimension they visit turn out to be superstitious and cowardly, and Leonard and Alan able to rescue them from the dominion of the dread bandits Manny, Moe, and Jack (why this isn't trademark infringement, I have no idea).

Slaves of Spiegel

A short epistolary novel, featuring the dread Speigellian space pirates of Fat Men from Space, who roam the galaxy in search of junkfood. This book depends entirely on humor, with no memorable characters or emotional weight, and seems aimed at rather younger readers than the other four. Not actually painful to read, but not recommended.

The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death

Walter Gant and Winston Bongo spend their nights sneaking out of their houses to go to the Snark theater double-bill, in an attempt to escape the crushing tedium of Genghis Kahn High School, keeping scrupulous tally of successful Snarkouts, both joint and solo. One night they meet Bentley Saunders Harrison Matthews ("You can call me Rat."), a student at nearby George Armstrong Custer High School who has also independently invented the sport, and are drawn into the mystery of her kidnapped uncle, the mad scientist Flipping Hades Terwilliger, who appears to have been kidnapped by the archcriminal Wallace Nussbaum. Sherlock Holmes fans will enjoy the large number of Holmes references. Funny and evocative.

The Last Guru

Another fairly weak one. Harold Platz, a 13-year-old boy, becomes, through a series of improbable stock market investments, one of the richest people in the world, and is discovered to be the reincarnated founder ot the Silly Hat Sect, which appears to be loosely based on Tibetan Buddhism. The primary purpose of the book seems to make fun of the American New Age movement, which was still a fish in a barrel last time I checked.

Young Adult Novel

The Wild Dada Ducks--Charlie the Cat, Captain Colossal, Igor, the Indiana Zephyr, and the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico)--are a group of students who attempt to resurrect the Dada art movement at Himmler High school. Young Adult Novel has a very different feel to it than Pinkwater's other High School novels. There are no elements of fantasy or science fiction--the story takes place entirely on or near the Himmler campus. Rather than trying to escape the High School experience, the Wild Dada Ducks attempt to transform it through will and creativity. Their success in doing so is...limited, but the endeavor is one of the funniest damn things I've ever read.

Final Notes

Avocado of Death has a sequel: The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror, which is very good. Pinkwater denies rumors of a third volume, I Snarked with a Zombie.

Young Adult Novel had a sequel called Dead End Dada. The two were also published together, along with an excerpt from the proposed third volume, The Dada Boys in Collich, under the title Young Adults. Both books are extremely out of print. Any leads on obtaining them would be vastly appreciated.

Pinkwater has a semi-official web site, and is a remarkably prompt correspondent.

As a small child, I was often read The Blue Moose by my parents. Many years later, I realized that it was also by Pinkwater. I recommend it highly. Also recommended is Lizard Music.

Purchase this collection at fatbrain.

Study Questions:

  1. Is Osgood Sigerson actually Walter Galt's father?
  2. Would it be appropriate to call Pinkwater's books "subversive?" Why or why not?
  3. Discuss the role of food in Pinkwater's books. Special emphasis may be payed to the roles of raisin toast and kosher salami. In what light is vegetarianism presented?
  4. Discuss the role of Judaism in Pinkwater's books.
  5. Authenticity is often a concern of Pinkwater's characters, as in the fish store scene quoted above. What constitutes authenticity for them?
  6. Compare and contrast Pinkwater's approach to humor with that of Woody Allen, Douglas Adams, and Stanislaw Lem.

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woohoo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549425)

first post baby!!

Re:woohoo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549426)

Hey mick, you suck a big fat one!

Re:Harry Potter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549427)

According to Pinkwater, they were reissued because FSG saw a chance to make some money off his large catalog of out of print books. This collection came out in 1997, and so (I think) predates the popularity of the Henry Potter books.

In any case, there should be another five novels collection coming out in the next few months. Pinkwater has been soliciting cover blurbs from fans for a while.

Can the Mad Scientists' Club be next, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549428)

Just when I was about ready to give up on Slashdot, you go and post something in such impeccably good taste. Pinkwater has been one of my all-time faves [islandnet.com] for a long time. Hey, can we use the Slashdot Effect to get them to re-issue the Bertrand Brinley Mad Scientists' Club books? See the web page [interstice.com] about them if you aren't lucky enough to have the memories from your childhood.

Re:Offtopicish: seeking books from my childhood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549429)

The second one is by Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi Longstocking books. The title is The Brothers Lionheart, and according to Amazon it's out of print. I thought it was a pretty spooky book for kids.

Re:Being less famous, blue moose trilogy, et al. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549430)

I believe there is a Blue Moose trilogy, I know for sure that there is the "Blue Moose" and "Return of the Blue Moose", I can't for the life of me remember the title of the third one

How I came to enjoy Pinkwater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1549431)

I grew up in a very large town that unfortunitly had a very poor public school system. Going to the school library in elementry school was a pain. There were only so many paperbacks to go around, and I'd always get there last after Cleary, Blume, Dhal, and Avi had been taken. I'd usually end up with some crumbling Hardy Boys book from the 1950s.

Then one day I noticed a book stuffed in the corner. In an incredibly coincidental feat of Pinkwater irony, that book happened to be Lizard Music.
It was an introduction to Pinkwater, and the later discovery of "Doctor Who" that helped me through middle school.

To me Pinkwater has always been the geek's literary refuge. While everyone else is busy reading Redwall, or Harry Potter, or whatever the heck is popular these days, us geeks can quietly sit down and immerse ourselves with something that we can relate too.

And in the age of school shootings and Katz articles about geek profiling, it's nice to see someone out there that willing to give you a lift to floating islands surrounded by invisibility force fields.

The Devil in the Drain (2)

Frank Sullivan (2391) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549432)

Noted avante-garde improvisational guitarist and all-around lunatic Henry Kaiser [henrykaiser.net] once recorded a version of Pinkwater's "The Devil in the Drain". The album is still in print, available from CDNow, et al. For the most part, it's incredibly strange stuff, but that one cut is reasonably accessible for most people. :}

And i suspect Henry Kaiser's music would appeal to a lot of geeks.
Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.

Offtopicish: seeking books from my childhood (1)

raph (3148) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549433)

Reading this, I am reminded of a low-intensity quest of mine, which is seeking two books that I remember reading as a child, but which nobody seems to know about today. Perhaps posting this query on Slashdot will finally bring a resolution to the quest.

The first book is about a boy named "Stark" who is sent to live with his uncle. The book is full of Xanth-like puns (when I first came across the Xanth books, I thought I might have found it), such as a pomegrenade tree that you really don't want to sit under, as the fruits have a tendency to blow up. I don't remember much of the plot, but if you've read the book, hopefully you can recognize it from this.

The second book is about two brothers who die early in the book and spend most of the book exploring two afterlife worlds. I recall that the older boy dies first while cushioning the fall of the younger one. Again, I don't remember much of the plot of the book, but the landscapes portrayed in the book were quite compelling.

I think I was eight or so when I read these. Any help tracking them down would be appreciated.

Thanks! (1)

raph (3148) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549434)

Wow, thanks very much. Slashdot really came through for me, and it was even an Anonymous Coward! All you AC-dissers, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I was thinking that the theme is a little difficult for young kids. My son is 3.5 now, it will probably be a while before I recommend it to him.

My encounter with another Pinkwater fan (1)

Zippy the Pinhead (3531) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549435)

I was at the Alternative Press Expo [ape-con.com] a few years ago when I chatted up a cute gal at the Bunnyhop [bunnyhop.com] table. We talked books and I mentioned that I grew up on D.P.

At that, she made loud excited noises, jumped over the table and we did a little jig together.

Trufus factus.

I didn't get her phone number. I shall regret that for the rest of my days.

Bringin' back memories (Or WHOA! Nostalgia trip!) (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549436)

I came across Mr. Pinkwater in grade-school. I was exposed to his "Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death" and "Lizard Music". What grabbed me was the sheer depth of his descriptions in his books. His style is completely immersive and subtly seductive.

Things that stick out in my mind:

Rat's 50 gigadecibel Hi-Fi Mono (Stereo Sucks!) sound system in an acoustically sealed room.

The park and the oratory wall.

The coffee shop.

As for Lizard Music, I remember the book more for the way it sucked me in, rather than the story itself (IOW the details have dimmed in my mind over the last 15 years simply due to the sheer volume of literature I've absorbed, though ask me about David Eddings, and I can probably rattle it off to you).

Chas - The one, the only.

More about Pinkwater (2)

drox (18559) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549437)

My only exposure to Daniel Pinkwater has been his occasional appearances on public radio, and the Young Adults collection. But that's been enough to make me a die-hard Pinkwater fan. So sad to hear that Young Adults is out of print (though it's nice to know I might actually own something valuable) Warning: if you dislike the Pinkwater treatment of females, you'll really dislike certain aspects of The Dada Boys in Collitch excerpt. I felt ashamed even as I was laughing myself silly.

Anyway, here's a link to NPR's Daniel Pinkwater bio [npr.org] .

Missile Whistle! (2)

dmorin (25609) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549438)

Oh lord, the memories. When I heard the name Alan Mendelsohn again, that's the first thing that I thought: missile whistle. I don't even remember what that was -- something about whistling at people really loudly from behind so that it scares the bejeesus out of them.

My memory of that book goes back eons to junior high (or was it elementary school?) where I had chosen that as my book report. Well, one of the bullies of the class decided that he didn't want to write his, so me being the geek, he grabbed me and made me tell him what the book was about. Then he wrote it down and passed it in. Well, the next day (or something) there was a substitute, and she wanted us to read our reports aloud. So she grabbed this kid's. And he got up and read what he wrote, which was about one page, exactly what I told him, and took him like 30 seconds. She then shuffled through the stack and pulled out mine. Saying "I thought it was interesting that the two of you chose the same book," she had me read mine. Which, of course, took like 15 minutes and sounded like a completely different book.

Of course, it made mr. jock look like an idiot. Luckily I didn't get my ass kicked. I had a good school, the geeks didn't get beat up so much as just generally tormented.


Harry Potter? (1)

Feersum Endjinn (26312) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549439)

It sounds like these may have been repackaged and released due to thier similarity (in theme) to the very successful Harry Potter books. Has anyone read them both?

Read a good book lately?

Robert Rankin (1)

theno23 (27900) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549440)

Sounds a bit like Robert Rankin to me, though Rankin is a technophobe, very very British and uses a lot of occult "in jokes".

Anyone read both?

Re:The Last Guru and Roald Dahl (1)

Sebbo (28048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549441)

The comparison to Dahl is interesting. Both certainly produce the sense in their readers of having been inducted into a secret society. The big difference that leaps to mind is that Dahl embraces the fear and disgust that early teens have a love/hate relationship with, whereas Pinkwater tends to carefully avoid the threatening or shocking. Dahl's word is often a harsh and terrifying one, compared to Pinkwater's gentleness. I'll have to think about it a little more to decide if I think that's Dahl exploiting his audience, or being truer to it.

Re:Harry Potter? (1)

Sebbo (28048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549442)

I don't think so; 5 Novels came out over a year ago, before the Potter boom really hit. Also, there's enough humorous adventure fiction for teens that (unless there are parallels I'm missing) I don't see why Pinkwater is particularly well-positioned to take advantage of their popularity.

Re:Weird Stuff (1)

Sebbo (28048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549443)

Don't take his writing too seriously
though. This is not the book to analyze and write an english paper on.

Why not?

Fatbrain?? (1)

Sebbo (28048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549444)

Hemos, why is the "buy this' link to Fatbrain, which calls itself an "online bookstore specializing in professional books, interactive training and certification?"

Do you guys have a deal now that they'll carry /.-reviewed books or something?

Re:Stanislaw Lem (1)

Sebbo (28048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549445)

Ya caught me. The Lem comparison is pretty tenuous. What brought him to mind, really, was the culture on the 33d plane of existence in Alan Mendelsohn. The systematic self-delusion of the people there was very reminiscent of The Star Diaries which I happened to be reading at about the same time, and which is full of subtle (and not-so-subtle) political satire.

Note, by the way, that for the wordplay in Cyberiad, the briliant translator (whose name, unfortunately, I don't have on hand. Anyone want to help me out?) deserves almost as much credit as the author.

NPR Commentaries (1)

Tyriphobe (28459) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549446)

There are two book collections of stuff he's done on NPR over the years - Fishwhistle and Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights (I may have the cities backwards... apologies in advance). Both are hilarious, even more so if you can imagine them being read in his voice. They're collections of his radio spots, about the length of a short essay each. Highly recommended.

The Last Guru and Roald Dahl (1)

_J_ (30559) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549447)

I Disagree with the assessment of "The Last Guru." Now it's been a long time since I read the book, but I recall that it really stressed that the divisions that divide us are pretty artificial. I don't think the divisions between people are quite as simple as the book lays out. But I do think that most of them are pretty silly, and if we can learn to put them in their proper place we can deal with each other much more successfully.

Now Roald Dahl has a different writing style, but the idea of empowering the youth is common between Dahl's books and the Last Guru. And that is something that helped me when I was younger.

Maybe we should have reviews of some of Dahl's work.



Re:Harry Potter? (1)

Artichoke (34549) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549448)

Depends on when you became aware of the Potter boom. I'd say, from what we've heard in the UK which started booming earlier, and so was aware of the burgeoning Stateside interest before some segements of the US were (?), that the boom has been gathering pace for the past eighteen months/two years. Whatever.

Re:Robert Rankin (1)

kbuxton (47173) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549449)

I've read a couple of Pinkwater novels and one Rankin novel. Some of the feel is similar (the kinda odd things happening to high-school-ish boys) but they're quirky in different ways.

The Rankin novel, The Book of Ultimate Truths, seemed less concerned with the main character's relationships with others than seems to be the case with the Pinkwater novels. It was more just this guy having these strange experiences.

alan mendelsohn (1)

jakethesnake (52875) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549450)

As a boy (15 or so years ago) I found Alan Mendelsohn on a table of street vendor goods and fell in love with that book. I used to reread it every 6 months or so, just to reaclimmatemyself to Pinkwater's twisted sense of humor and irony. I enjoyed the fact that the book doesn't pander to its audience. A good read for any teen. (Wish I still had my dog-eared copy but, alas, I lent it out and never saw it again when I was in high school)

Good Memories of Pinkwater (and being fat) (1)

slaker (53818) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549451)

I read most of Daniel Pinkwater's books when
I was in middle school. I distinctly recall being
teased for weeks at a time after the overdue
state of "Snarkout Boys and the Avacado of Death"
my announced to my 7th grade class.

Part of the fun of Pinkwater's books is finding
all the psuedonyms he's used for his work. It
was a lot of fun to pick up a book and discover,
after reading about ten pages, that it was a
Daniel Pinkwater story, regardless of what the
cover said.

At any rate, my adult connection with Daniel
Pinkwater has been National Public Radio,
through his commentaries on "All Things
Considered" -- which can be side-splitting
at times, just like his books, and book reviews
on "Weekend Edition Sunday".

Pinkwater talks a lot about being fat.
That's something that I bet I'm not the only
/.-er interested in. He's fat and he's...
amazingly positive about it. One doesn't hear
many fat-positive people ANYWHERE, but Pinkwater
is erudite and funny about it, so hearing his
voice on the radio is always a joy.

I got a copy of the 5 Stories collection with a
contribution to my local public radio station.
I let a half-dozen adults borrow and read it
before I finally passed it along to my niece.

Study Questions??? (1)

Szoup (61508) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549452)

Is there going to be a quiz later, too? Will it count against my regular Slashdot grade?
------------------------------------------ -

Hooray! DMP and Slashdot! (1)

Battra (65036) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549453)

Finally, two of my favorites together. I wonder how many other Slashdot readers are into Pinkwater?

In any case, read 5 Novels, it's a fantastic introduction to the twisted world of Pinkwater.

Also, here are some links to Pinkwater sites on the web:

The Semi-Official Site [designfoundry.com]

DMP's Chinwag Theater radio show [chinwagtheater.org]

The Hoboken Chicken Emergencyclopedia [earthlink.net] Disclaimer: I help run this one.

Being less famous, blue moose trilogy, et al. (1)

jonmay (67464) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549454)

The most notable thing about Pinkwater to me has been his relative anonymity among those authors cherished by twenty-somethings. Everybody knows Dahl, Silverstein, Blume, etc. but whenever I've brought up pinkwater heretofore, I always seem to get blank stares. Huh. Wonder why he doesn't get the big draws. The appeal for me was more or less the same as the appeal to those other authors that everybody and his sister seems to love and cherish (and I do too, don't get me wrong). But whereas they frequently come up in school summer reading lists and suggested books, his don't. Heck, even Scott Adams' stuff gets mentioned more, even the dirk gently books (which, IMO, aren't really that great).

The review mentions the blue moose. Wasn't there a whole blue moose trilogy? I swear I've read more than one.

I was always confused by a book I read that was definately in the pinkwater style but was authored by a "Manus Pinkwater." But that's his middle name, right? I guess he just wrote under it for a while.

A good history & bibliography would be much appreciated, if anyone knows where to get one.


Two different kinds of fantasies (1)

glenn mcdonald (67769) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549455)

Harry Potter is fantasy of the "imagine there were a cooler world, so we didn't have to put up with this one" sort. Pinkwater's books tend, instead, to be fantasies about how the real world is the cooler world, if you know how to think about it correctly, and where the all-night movie theaters and strange, cheap restaurants are. I discovered both recently, post-30, and have enjoyed them both immensely, but my adult self definitely finds Pinkwater's blend of deranged whimsy and urban realism a bit more sophisticated and intriguing than Rowling's relatively straight-forward school for wizards. I think Harry Potter is really for a slightly younger audience.

Lizard Music (1)

FreshGroundPepper (70119) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549456)

This is great. I was just thinking last week about submitting a question about the D. M. Pinkwater-Geek relationship. I was heavily influenced by Pinkwater when I was growing up. Fat Men from Space, Lizard Music, Alan Mendelson: Boy From Mars, and others are all fantastic books. They were great when I was eleven, but I reread Lizard Music last week and still enjoyed it. I'd suggest just about all of Pinkwaters stuff to anyone reading /., especially if you have children.

In some ways they style of humor reminds me of the Simpsons, but a little more subtle, the same kind of poking fun at authority thought.

Re:The Last Guru and Roald Dahl (1)

sharv (71041) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549457)

The first book I ever read by myself was "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which is indeed quite a bizarre book. Mom was good enough to then purchase the sequel, "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", which scared the bejeezus out of me! I'll never forget the pen-and-ink drawings of the Vermicious Knids (sp?) in the elevators aboard the space station - great way to terrify a six-year-old!

What many people overlook, it seems, is the quality (and quantity!) of Dahl's adult fiction. His most famous short story, "Lamb To The Slaughter", was made into an equally famous episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". For those who don't remember, it's the wonderful tale of a wife who kills her abusive husband, and the police are instrumental in helping her dispose of some crucial evidence.

Characterizing Dahl as "harsh and terrifying" isn't entirely true, as some of his best and most memorable children's works are also quite tender and touching. Rereading "Danny, The Champion Of The World" never fails to improve my outlook. "The Fabulous Mr. Fox" is a similarly inventive, witty, and incredibly charming tale.

Once you get beyond the obvious kid's stuff, though, Dahl's work is indeed gruesome and horrifying. However, there's always a sly sense of cosmic or poetic justice lurking just below the ghastly surface.

ObDahl: EgyptAir 990 was apparently carrying a shipment of royal jelly when it went down; those well-versed in Dahl's short stories immediately knew what 'royal jelly' was, media confusion notwithstanding.

Pinkwater and Zen Dada Ducks (1)

boojumsnark (75347) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549458)

I've read Young Adults. As I recall, "The Wild Dada Ducks Go to College" has a brilliant parody of the Beats (they become "The Wild Zen Dada Ducks") and some of J.D. Salinger's more irritating tropes. (I'd also recommend Fish Whistle, a collection of Pinkwater essays. The Afterlife Diet, his "adult" book about where fat people go when they die, is not nearly as successful as the best of his Y.A. and children's books.)

I once interacted with Pinkwater. He found my drooling fan email somewhat frightening. I asked if I could send him a copy of my zine, which had, among other things, a review of children's books in which I called him the greatest living children's writer.

If memory serves me correctly, I got his email address from one of the children's books newsgroups... If people want to harass the poor man, they can do a DejaNews search.

Re:Hooray! DMP and Slashdot! (1)

Yair (78351) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549459)

I wonder how many other Slashdot readers are into Pinkwater?.

Quite a few, I'd expect.

Back at college I was in a group called Storyreading [wco.com] which was kind of like cookies and bed-time stories for post-adolescents. We read all sorts of stuff, including lots of children's literature and ocassional Pinkwater (mostly the picture books). And (dare I say it) most of us were nerds, some the kind that would read Slashdot.

Hmmm... any other storyreaders current or former reading this thread?

I think that much as Slashdot readers are disproprionately interested in SF and comic books and anime many (although perhaps fewer) would appreciate DMP.

Re:Harry Potter? (1)

acaben (80896) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549460)

I really don't think the two are connected at all. First of all, the Pinkwater collection came out at least a year ago, maybe more, before the Harry Potter became a household name. Also, reading Pinkwater is not at all like reading Rowling.

I've read both authors, and enjoyed both immensely. Pinkwater seems to concentrate more on kids like I was. Kids who were geeks, more or less. Pinkwater's characters didn't fit in and couldn't have cared less. Harry and the gang become heros to everyone at the school.

The HP books also have the traditional good vs. evil story line, while Pinkwater seemed to explore different kinds of conflict and plot in his books.

Both authors are extrememly talented at what they do, but I don't think there's much of a comparison between what they're writing.

Ahh yes, I remember (1)

Sorklin (88002) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549461)

Pinkwater was the best 'find' of my young adult life. My friends and I modeled ourselves after the Dada club in Young Adult Novel. We came up with code words linked to odd actions - like "3" meant to trip, "4" meant to fall, and "34" was trip and fall. By yourself, kind of stupid. But imagine about 6 people walking in the mall and triping at exactly the same time. Got quite a few looks. We had about 25-30 code words (mostly based on softdrinks) and quite a few odd actions in response to mundane questions. If anyone asked one of us our name, we would all point to the person to our left and say "this is John." Again, evidence of a very pinkwater warping of our minds.

I still remember the 'feel' of Snarkout boys, though its been some time since I've read it. i ran across a copy of Lizard Music not too long ago and almost sat down to read it.

Anybody else similarly warped by Pinkwater?

Radio Show, Bay Area (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549462)

If you're into hear Captain Pinkwater read his stuff and banter, listen to his radio show "Chinwag Theater."

In the Bay Area, it plays on 88.5, 6:30 pm Sunday Evenings.


Look for this tape! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549463)

About eight years back, Pinkwater did special readings of essays from his book Fishwhistle. (Which were in turn transcripts of commentaries broadcast on NPR, and which were recorded as-is but without permission by Dove Audio and aren't as well composed anyway.)

If you happen across the long out of print two-tape Fishwhistle set, BUY IT.

I have had friends injure themselves laughing at some of the stuff on this tape. Brilliant.

"Eat Pudding!"

Stefan Jones

It's a good read... (1)

Anitra (99093) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549464)

if a bit fast. I read these about a year ago, when I had much more free time than I do now. It's very entertaining, but it makes me very glad that I'm out of highschool and middleschool.

Actually, if you like Pinkwater, I would also recommend Terry Pratchett, especially the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy. Johnny Maxwell seems like a normal 12 year old, but weird things happen to him... like when he is playing his favorite video game, the aliens suddenly surrender to him instead of shooting back...or he finds out that the neighboorhood bag lady is a time traveler..

Anyway, happy reading!

Weird Stuff (1)

theophilus (106556) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549465)

This may be obvious, but Daniel Pinkwater is quite weird. Don't take his writing too seriously though. This is not the book to analyze and write an english paper on.

His books stand out from the hundreds of books I read growing up. "Lizard Music" was probably the best one I read.

Pinkwater is more than just an author (1)

scottKp (110626) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549466)

Pinkwater is actually more known than most of us expect (at least those of us who have read his books (Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars was perhaps the first book i remember reading and enjoying as a kid)) He is a regular contributor to NPR, particularly he does commentary on All Things Considered. His pieces are always funny and insightful.

Stanislaw Lem (1)

rbowen (112459) | more than 15 years ago | (#1549467)

I was always rather under the impression that interest in Stanislaw Lem was rather limited to people with too much mathematical training. When I was at the University of Kentucky, I found a copy of Cyberiad tucked away in a "special collection" - whatever that meant - and spent several hours chorting over it, and being shushed by the stern librarians. There's a charming poem in there about Love and Tensor Algebra, which, at one point in my educational career, I understood all of, and it was immensely funny. All of this is, of course, in response to one of your study questions. Do you find that the type of humor is closely related, or was that just a red herring? I'll have to grab a copy of this book somewhere, and see for myself.
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