January 1, 1997

Post #667 – 19970101

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.