Monday, April 30, 2007

The Best Book of All...



I realize that one should never claim to have found the "best" book, but for years now, I've come back again and again to The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber. I read it at least every six months (no kidding), and find something new each time I pick it up. I owe a great debt to Steve Gettinger, who bought me my copy long ago...

This is a book of poetry, of wordplay, of silly songs and fairy-tale cadences. It is pretty pure imagination, fantasy at its best. But it's also a cynical book, wry and funny and clever. The story of a prince who follows an impossible journey for the love of a fair maiden, The Thirteen Clocks is also the story of his sidekick, the Golux, who is flawed, mistaken... and yet we trust him.

There are children long gone who never resurface. There is a terrible villain who learns nothing. There is a terrifying beast, the Todal, an agent of the devil whom we never come to understand. Heros are deceitful and the princess is bland. Spies switch sides and are killed for the slightest infractions. This book breaks all the rules beautifully. As good books should.

But here, I have been wasting words. I can't do it justice. Let me show you:

”I am the Golux,” said the Golux proudly, “the only Golux in the world, and not a mere Device.”

“You resemble one,” the minstrel said, “as Saralinda resembles the rose.”

“I resemble only half the things I say I don’t,” the Golux said. “The other half resemble me.”


Oh, if only they did...

Nothing resembles the Golux, or the Thirteen Clocks.

7 comments:

Cassandra said...

Laurel, I don't know you, you don't know me, but I'm here in Chattanooga and know Paul Guest (and was, once upon a time, married to Phil Knox, whoa!). Would you mind if I spread news of this blog through the ether? I've got lots of parents and big kids who would love to read this, myself included.
Thanks!
Cassandra

AmyB said...

Laurel, I came here from the link in Readerville, where I tend to lurk. Looks like a good blog. Have you read much Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper? If so, what'dya think? And in terms of newer lit, there are a ton of series books for older elementary age boys, but the only one I'm enamoured of so far is the Gregor the Overlander series. Or is that age range outside your scope?

Laurel said...

Hey Cassandra! So very nice to meet you, and WHOA!!! is right...

Love to ahve you spread the word, and love to hear the details... I miss Chattanooga...

xoL

Laurel said...

Amy,

I am a HUGE fan of Susan Cooper, though I'll admit the Boggart books didn't come close to impressing me the way the Dark is Rising series did (which I re-read recently, as a matter of fact).

Lloyd Alexander never quite made it through to me when I was a kid. I think, by the time I was the right age, I was reading dumb girlie books (more fool I). Thankfully, that phase passed quickly.

But I really appreciate the suggestions, and will check out Gregor!

xoL

Cassandra said...

Laurel,
Thanks! Yah, I know; I'm thinking I ended up alright with all of that. We have a daughter, Savvy, whom I'm raising here in Chatt (which is a wonderful family town).
But yes, so I know lots of fun people around here who would love to see this blog.
Good luck on (the short remainder of) your pregnancy; do you need anything baby-wise? I've got a few resources here - people who'd love to pass along good stuff.

Andrea Baker said...

So excited that your doing this Laurel! I spend so much of my time trying to figure out where the good kid books are. They didn't really find me as a kid so I don't know and my son says he doesn't like to read, he just likes to read good books (his way of thinking) and I'm blown away by what good taste he has. Phantom Tollbooth is near his/our top- I'm going to order that more math-y Juster book soon. Tuck Everlasting is a favorite. Shel Silverstein. There's a recent series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which is excellent, as is The Anybodies. ...he doesn't go for Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket. Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper he likes but the vocab there is a bit much at this stage so I'm mostly "saving" them. We got him a few Maira Kalman books when he was in the picture book age group. I loved them but he didn't go for them. Now the he's 9 though and they have caught up with him. She's really brilliant- it's interesting though- the picture book is her form but her audience is not the standard picture book audience- Swami on Rye is excellent. OH! And I forced him to endure Stein's The World is Round at 5/6. Now he picked up a copy off the shelf and started looking at it this weekend- "this is excellent, really excellent." I can't describe my joy- having navigated Phantom Tollboth was really a stepping tone for him I think- how to access and enjoy riddle-y language... The most recent Percy Jackson book just came out so he's reading that now but in a few days we'll read Stein- he spent a day thinking about "Rose was her name and would she have been Rose if her name had not been Rose." - We tried those philosophy for children books but didn't get far- I/he didn't like the way they were written at all- but all the same stuff is in the Stein, but in a completely brilliant way.

...anyways. As you can see I'm into this. I've started blogging a bit about kid books too, but just in my normal blog. Recently wrote about Mixed Up Files Mrs. E Basil Frankweiler and The Goon. For adult books I only read poetry and non-fiction, but I love kids' fiction- which seems to have more in common with poetry- though I'm not ready to defend that statement.

Laurel said...

Wow, Andrea... I'm in absolute agreement in so many ways. I feel strongly that the poetry/kiddie-lit relationship is strong. I have a little theory about it, and was even thinking about pitching an AWP panel...

xoL