Talk to DP Forum

Daniel Wabyick

Post #652 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Hello Mr. Pinkwater!

– I must start off by telling you I have been deeply affected/afflicted by many of your books during my younger, more tender years. I hold you personally responsible for the way I turned out. The SnarkOut Boys and the Avocado of Death was an especially good book for me. I read it more often that I went to synagogue.

– Anyways. I just wanted to relate a short story and ask a question. I have always dreamed of discovering a theatre like the Snark…I determined if I ever found such a theatre, I would work there. When I read Fish Whistle and realized it was based on the now-deceased Clark Theatre in Chicago, I was both elated and saddened.

– Part three: Soon after my discovery, I found out that an older friend of mine actually had worked in the Clark Theatre in the late 1960’s. Furthermore, he told me of a story about a gang of interstate car thieves that were apprehended inside the Clark during a film. This solidified everything I had ever dreamed would happen in a theatre like the Snark.

– Finally, the question: Are there any 24 hour theatres like the Snark/Clark left on this earth, and if so, could you give me a tell?

Take care,

Daniel Alan Wabyick

Daniel replies:

I have seen many things in the Clark Theater myself. Not long ago someone sent me a bunch of the monthly listings they's mail out to patrons on cheapest paper. The films would have a two-line, usually rhymed synopsis. For example, ""The World of Apu,"" might have: ""An Indian kid; Find out what he did,"" and the like. When you filled out a slip for their mailing list, and put it in the box, if you filled in your birthday, they'd send you a free pass on the day--and you could ask for any movie, and they'd get it for you. Life was bleak in Chicago in the 50's, and the people who went to the Clark constituted a little sub- culture. You'd develop nodding acquaintances, have converstions in the lobby. Once I found a free ride to New York. People would have favorite times to attend, and you'd look for the same faces coming out as you went in. Sometimes, knowing that a friend would be exiting at the time another friend would be arriving you could send a message, useful, as Clark-types tended to be phoneless. I doubt there is any place like that today. Maybe certain web sites will evolve.

Bernadette Noll

Post #632 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

I do live in a place where middle eastern delights do not exist. Things such as good pizza, good hotdogs and good bagels are unheard of here in Texas. Many try to replicate but none have achieved the perfect toughness and doughiness of a real New Jersey bagel, yeast bubbles on pizza are practically unheard of and no, I don’t think Vienna hotdogs are available ANYWHERE within a thousand miles or so of Austin. I do return to my beloved middle eastern home state a couple times a year to remind my tastebuds of how they are really meant to be. Yellow mustard huh? The other fixings we add but the yellow mustard is what we are lacking. Thanks for the tip.

Daniel replies:

I feel I have to say that, except for bagels, I believe that eating this kind of thing very often will kill you. I know that as a fat person, and because of certain themes that appear in my work, I am assumed by many to be a completely reckless eater--but it's not the case. Treat those frankfurters with the respect you would give a loaded pistol.

Joe Gratz

Post #670 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Hi. I’m 1 16-year-old whose personality and sense of humor have been shaped, molded, twisted, and otherwise warped by “Young Adult Novel”. I got the book when I was 6, read it, and was tickled slightly. Then, when I was 12, I read it again, and was severely tickled. Last year, I began to study Dada — obviously due to some long-dormant, subconscious curiosity brought on by the book. I recently read “Young Adult Novel” again, and was tickled within an inch of my life. After 6 more readings, I passed the book around among my friends, who are quick becoming as odd as I am. Many thanks for helping to turn me into the strange, slightly-annoyingly sardonic odd duck that I am today. Even though it is “a dada story”, things this odd usually have some underlying symbolism. The best I can tell, the Dada Ducks represent the U.S. Government, getting a friendly dictator elected, only to be squashed by him, after all kinds of propaganda. Then again, maybe it has no moral.

And I promise, if I ever open any sort of restaurant, it will be called the Balkan Falcon.

Thanks 1,000,000.25 (the .25 is from my friends who just read the book. They’ll work up to a million soon enough),

Joe Gratz

Daniel replies:

I emphatically deny that any book or books of mine had anything to do with you turning out the way you have. Everybody knows that books, movies, TV, music have no effect of any sort on individuals or the culture as a whole. With education, guidance, possibly treatment, and maybe incarceration, you can hope to become a reliable member of the work force, a consumer, and a member of a political party. I apologize for having written those books, and am currently in therapy, viewing films made by the Walt Disney Company (tm), with a view to becoming a constructive and acceptable kind of artist. Thank you.


Post #667 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

I am a Ph.D. candidate at NYU named Hal. I would love to do my dissertation on your texts, O Pinkwater, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t work out so well. For those brave than I, I offer some sample subjects for Pinkwater criticism:

The theme of doubling in _Alan Mendelsohn_: there are numerous repetitions of silly little things (one example is the Nafsu Motors yearbook and Nafsulian pirates, there are several more) that lead up to the doubling of Waka-Waka/Hogboro. Is there a common thread betwen these doublets? Is one more “real” than the other?

_Alan Mendelsohn_ and _Avocado of Death_ present different paths to “salvation” (or whatever). In AM, Leonard goes through an internal change–at the end of the book he is back to where he was in the beginning, in the main. (The exception is the remedial gym class.) His best friend is gone. His psychic powers show no evidence of being used in the future. He goes to the same lousy school. But his experience has made him into a kind of Alan Mendelsohn. The Snarkout Boys, on the other hand, have not changed at all: they have simply discovered another world, much cooler than the one they were used to–they have only changed externally, have only changed their surroundings. Compare and contrast.

Is Mr. Neeble Osgood Sigerson? Evidence: enjoyment of raisin toast & avocados; nose putty can for collar studs/Osgood’s false nose; never at the same convention; Mr. Neeble’s “working late”; Osgood’s familiar voice; etc. But then who is Sacker?

Note that all Pinkwater juvenile novels have the same plot: alienated (or at least dissatisfied) young boy goes finds himself in unusual circumstances, the strangeness escalates until he is initiated into another, weirder world. This outline applied to _Alan Mendelsohn_, _Snarkout Boys_ (although by the second book they’re already initiated), _Yobgorgle_, _Borgel_, _Lizard Music_, the underappreciated _Worms of Kukumlima_, even _Java Jack_ and many other books. Now look at _Young Adults_. The first section, “Young Adult Novel,” is the Pinkwater plot in reverse: we get the plot from the point of view of the weird people. Kevin Shapiro is the alienated kid, but he doesn’t want to be initiated. “Dead End Dada” is a parody of the Pinkwater plot. The Dada Boys are now cast as the alienated youths, but they mistake banality for cool weirdness. “The Dada Boys in Collitch” is a return to the standard plot, with the weird old guy in the woods representing the strange world that the Dada Boys need to be initiated into. This is why “In Collitch” is “unfinished”; we already know the rest, because Pinkwater has written it several times before. More work needs to be done on this.

I would like to prepare annotated versions of Pinkwater’s major works to facilitate study. I mean, how long did it take before I got the Cabeza de Vaca references? A Pinkwater Society, with a high quality quarterly, should be founded. Etc.

Love and Kisses,


Daniel replies:

I don't think NYU is too classy for you to do your dissertation on the works of Pinkwater. Of course, the rest of your career would be pretty dismal, but given your taste in reading that's going to be so anyway. I wish you'd write it, and send me a copy. Then I could find out what my books are about. Hey, it may not be too late for you to send a quote, or permission to quote from your posting here, to Wes Adams. It would look good to have a blurb from someone enrolled in a college.

P.S. In the Chicago stage production of AVOCADO OF DEATH they had the same actress play the mother and Sacker. I wonder if that was what I had in mind. Never having read the book, I can't say for sure.

Fred Fisher

Post #662 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

Being a former resident of the Hudson Valley, I enjoy your pieces on NPR. In the future, if you have childrens books to give away, try the New Paltz school system. They may be more receptive and they certainly could use new books. Most of their stuff was published in the 50’s and 60’s.


Fred Fisher

Daniel replies:

I do accumulate enough review copies of children's books, from time to time, to donate to a local school library. New Paltz, while in my neighborhood, isn't local enough. I plan to give books to all the schools in my own town--other towns, get your own local book reviewer to hand them over, instead of schlepping them to NYC and selling them for money. Nor do I claim them as a charitable deduction. Am I a cool guy, or what?

Jack Falco

Post #685 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Dear Mr M. Pinkwater,

Do you injoy writing your books and recording your tapes? I like to listen to your tape Blue Moose and guess what our dog’s name is. Blue. Maybe if your dog and my dog get together they would have a great time playing. My favorite story in the Blue Moose stories is the moose from space,and when my family goes on vacation we bring the Blue Moose tape and we bring our dog Blue too. My mom and I read your stories about being fat and she loved the part where you saw a sign and it said, danger do not go any farther and you did and you thouth since it was a old sign you thouth it must be old danger. We thought that was very funny especially my mom.


>From Arden, Delaware

HAVE A GOOD TIME Reading MY letter BYE.

Daniel replies:

I did have a good time reading your letter! I'm glad you enjoy the Blue Moose tape. Persons who own tape recorders, and whose local public radio station carry the new program Chinwag Theater, will be able to tape _all_ my stuff--all ever written--if the program lasts long enough. Satellite transmissions begin next month. It is perfectly all right to phone, mail, fax and email the station, and tell the Program Director or General Manager you want them to carry it. The first 52 weeks are free!

Miriam Solon

Post #592 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

There was an amazing production of Lizard Music at a theatre in Chicago a few years ago. I’m having a brain cramp, so I can’t remember the theatre’s name, but they specialize in staging children’s literature in very imaginative productions. I’m going to keep typing until the theatre’s name comes to me.

I’m visiting the website, prompted by your plug on NPR today. I haven’t checked out the audio clips yet, but I hope you have the story about Jill and the wolf and also your appearance in the Nettlehorst Christmas play. Two of my kid cousins went there in the ’60s, and the faculty were still doing things like that (coercing Jewish kids–in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood–into appearing in Christmas pageants).

Ah, the cramp has cleared up. The theatre is called Lifeline. They are in Rogers Park, and they are fabulous.

Love the ratatouille recipe!

Just had one more question for you…

In the Lifeline Theatre production of Lizard Music, your bio was radically different from the info in your bio here and your brief family history. If I log on, say a week from now, will it be a third kind of different? If so, I look forward to it.

P.S.: Even though you say you don’t read anymore, except for Moby Dick, I would recommend Douglas Adams. I’d also recommend him to your readers, as his work is sort of the older kids’/young adults’ version of what you do. Since I still have all my childhood and young adulthood inside of me, I read both.

Daniel replies:

I believe Douglas Adams has remarked that he regards me as his literary model and personal guru, or he said he has heard of me--I forget which.

Jim Bradley

Post #571 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Mr. Pinkwater,

Let me begin my stating that the next two paragraphs contain lavish praise for you and your writing, followed by my question. If you are too modest or humble you might want to skip to the end.

As an kid, I remember reading several books from the modest little library at my elementary school. Two of them to this day remain fixated in my memory. The first was a picture book in which a magician’s sissors flew across the pages cutting everything in it’s path – an old lady’s beehive, a fat man’s suspenders, and so on. The second was a curious little book called Fat Men From Outer Space. I remember reading this book and secretly wishing I too had a set of radio-teeth to fool my teacher with. My mother grew curious with my sudden and frequent requests that she make potato pancakes for dinner. But the one instant that I recall most vividly was when I finished the book and turned it over to look at your picture. There, wearing a plaid sportscoat, glasses, and (if memory serves correctly) holding a banana was the fat man from outer space. “They’re here.”

As an adult, I was surprized and thrilled when I first heard you doing commentary on NPR. I was developing negatives in pitch blackness, when a great story emitted from the darkroom radio. It was of your adventures in an antique store, with the Egyptian sarcophagus that you felt the uncontrollable urge to —– taste?

Since this experience I have tried to catch you on NPR as often as I can. My question is about one of your later NPR shorts.

As I have evolved into a rather portly adult (more due to genetics and my mother’s country cooking than your influence), I remember hearing you on NPR talking about your “Rat-tat-tooey” diet plan. I was rather excited about the prospect and actually made some “Rat-tat-tooey” later that week. I have however lost the recipe for “Rat-tat-tooey” and was hoping that you could give it to me once again. I am about to begin a new diet and exercise plan and would like to make “Rat-tat-tooey” a part of it.

Thank you and keep writing, were all better for it.

P.S.—Forgive me, but what is the correct spelling of Rat-tat-tooey?

Daniel replies:

I am still eating ratatouille at least once, (usually a couple of times), a day, along with many other things. The weight loss has slowed to a crawl, (I suppose I need to back off the second breakfast bagel), but I don't care--never did care about the actual poundage--I am pretty healthy, which is and was the point.

Max Hazell

Post #682 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Mr. Pinkwater :

When did you become a writer? Is it the truth in “Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights”? What was your first book?(that you wrote)When does the sun come up in Japan? Do you like seafood? Is your favorite sport square dancing. . .

I’m getting carried away.Please just answer the first three.( If you like )

Max Hazell


Daniel replies:

I am still becoming a writer. All books have some truth in them--no book has The Truth in it. The first book I wrote was The Terrible Roar. The sun comes up in Japan just after dawn. I like seafood--shrimpers and rice are very nice. I forget your last question.

Tom Blair

Post #519 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I have been reading your books for several years now, and I’ve really enjoyed them all. Though my favorite book has to be “Alan Mendelsohn”. It’s one of the best books I ever read. Ever since reading it, I can’t stop thinking about Green Death Chili. I was wondering, is there really such a thing, and if there is- would you send me the recipe? Anything called Green Death Chili has to be good.

Daniel replies:

I am enjoined by federal statute against sending the recipe for green death chili over the internet, on phones lines, or through the mail. It is also against the law to write it down, speak it, communicate it through signs, gestures, diagrams or rebuses, except in the state of Tennessee, where it can be scratched in the dirt with a stick, in the presence of adults without criminal records, provided it is rubbed out again at once.

Ian Holloran

Post #669 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

I just wanted to say please write a lot more books, lots of adult books also.


Daniel replies:

I am doing my best. The fact is, you can read faster than I can write. More stuff on the way.

Harry Matthews

Post #556 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Daniel —

I can’t tell you how delighted I am to find that someone has braved the lion’s den of broadcast publicity to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of today’s children’s book authors and artists.

I toiled for some 25 years in the vineyards of book publishing, growing more pessimistic with each trashy novel. But the children’s books, whether YA melodramas or folk tales illustrated for the nursery-school set, were still written, illustrated, and published with care and insight. The youngest readers, ironically, get the best we had to offer. I hope that your PBS commentaries will encourage admirers of all ages to check out your recommendations. After all, I heard the latest in Seattle and now write you from New York City!

Daniel replies:

I agree. I complain about sinking standards in childrens books, but all the time I know the field is paradise compared to adult publishing. Of course it doesn't pay as well--in money, but I wake up happy every day of my life.

Leslie Demich

Post #548 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

In my daily commute (135 miles round trip), I listen eagerly to NPR, not only for the quality of content, but also for the ability of the commentators to keep me awake at the wheel. It’s a lifesaving technique, you see. Several days ago, the technique nearly backfired when I found myself digging through the glovebox instead of looking where I was driving — I simply HAD to get a pencil and paper. I had just finished listening to you describe your experience in obtaining a home page of your own, and I wanted to write down where to find it. I came close to nailing the guy driving in front of me (and maybe just a little bit the lady to my left), but, as you can see, I found your page.

Which is a long way of saying that it was a pleasure to hear that a young person went to such effort to make something so special happen for someone else. The young man who offered to create your home page did a wonderful job. The page is delightful. More importantly, the person who did this nice thing for you brightened my whole outlook on the day and the times. Thanks for sharing.

(Ed.–Gee, thanks)

Daniel replies:

I agree. Except for low taste in literature, Ed seems to be a fine young man.

David Jacobowitz

Post #648 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Good Day Dr. Pinkwater:

Funny I should find you in this round-about way. I used to have a perfectly good e-mail address, but I see you have changed it to avoid me.

I did find a reprint of the collected Norb strips from a guy in Seattle. He claimed that he was sending me the last archive copy that he had. He said that the binding was marginal. I am afraid to open it. I really want to read it, but it may self-destruct.

Do you have any copies of the reprinted collected Norb strip?

I hope to see you again some day. You cannot avoid this. I know where you used to live….


Daniel replies:

How to enjoy your crappily-bound collected dailies (I fear the color Sundays are lost forever) of NORB: Read it page by page. Enjoy the brilliant art by Tony Auth, and note how the text is mostly slightly worked-over Dr. Who programs, which DP usually was watching on the local PBS affiliate of a Sunday afternoon while writing it. By the time you have finished, night will be be closing in, and you will have a tear in your eye to think that such a lovable comic strip bit the dust after only one year. Also, all the pages will have come loose. Then, take a standard paper grocery bag from A&P, Kroger's, Price-Chopper, etc., and put the loose pages in it. Put it away with your other treasures. Any time you wish to enjoy the frolicsome antics of NORB and his pals again, simply shake out the pages, and read and gaze to your heart's content. This is what I do, and many other readers who possess this book, which is distinguished not only by the lousy binding but by the fact that no royalties were ever paid, shaking the $500 advance out of the publisher took far more time, plus threats, than it was worth, and the presonalities of the two guys who published the book are so repellant, that neither Mr. Auth nor I are willing to communicate with them to ask where our money may be, now that every single copy to the last archival one has been sold. (I know this is of little interest, but I promised myself I would at least allude to these experiences every time that publication is mentioned--and I would tell you their names, except I can't remember them).

How are you, David? Have you heard that George Rose, our college friend, has done highly important work on protein folding? Big article in the Johns Hopkins magazine for (I think) June '95. Says he found the holy grail of science. So it wasn't Monty Python after all.

Paulina and Amanda

Post #709 – 19970101

January 1, 1997

Daniel Pinkwater,

We are proud to pronouce that we are reading one of your books (5 novels ) just one novel he (SNARK OUT BOYS AND THE AVOCADO OF DEATH ) We just started the book yesterday and we are really enjoying it. We are looking forward to reading some of the other novels and books you have written. Sorry Reading Class is OVER got to go. (write back soon)



your favorite readers,

Paulina AND Amanda


Daniel replies:

How come you're writing during reading class?

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