Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Penises Rule!!" by Ron Jeremy

As if it wasn't enough just to put adults to bed, Paul McCartney is now going after their kids. He's published a children's book, entitled "High in the Clouds," about a squirrel named Wirral (after the Beatle bore's hometown) who's forced to go on after the death of his mother as a result of a tree cut down by nature haters.

McCartney now joins a long list of what-the-hell? celeb/children story authors like Katie Couric, Madonna, LeAnn Rimes, NFL Barber brothers, Ed Koch and Will Smith. Here's a few other titles that leave me scratching my head.


John A. Gotti - "The Children of Shaolin Forest"
The Times quoted his lawyer, upon requesting bail for his client, saying that Gotti "now prefers writing children's books to extortion and racketeering.''

Elizabeth Taylor - "Nibbles and Me"
What the fuck is it with squirrels? This then-teenage actress wrote a memoir about her adventures with a pet squirrel.

Ricky Gervais - "Flanimals"
BBC's "The Office" star created a made-up world inhabited by The Plamglotis and Munty Flumple. This is the same guy who said, when being introduced to Paris Hilton, "Oh, sorry Paris, I didn't recognize you without a cock in your mouth."

Bob Dylan - "Man Gave Names to All the Animals"
Many of us would love to forget Dylan's Christian-rock period in the late '70s that produced the album, Slow Train a Comin'. Many of us except Dylan that is. In 1999, he fanned the flames with this book built around the same-named song off that all-about-God recording. Here's an excerpt courtesy of Amazon: "'[Man] saw an animal leavin' a muddy trail./ Real dirty face and a curly tail./ He wasn't too small and he wasn't too big./ 'Ah, think I'll call it a pig.' "


I love parts of Dylan's Slow Train a Comin'. But like most albums or songs that are forced to fit into a theme, the entirety falls short. (Elton John's grade-school adjustment of "Candle in the Wind" for Lady Di's funeral is an obvious example of this.)

U2 is the world's greatest Christian rock band and that's in large part because it's a thread throughout their albums and not a noose forced around their necks.

My guess is that Dylan built his ode to the Mighty One around the song, "Gotta Serve Somebody." It opens the record and is regarded among his best. But seven songs in, still on the 'sing the praises of' train, Dylan hits an all-time low with "Man Gave Names to All the Animals." See if you agree.

"Gotta Serve Somebody"

"Man Gave Names to All the Animals"


At 1:15 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Well, if and when Fame ever decides to spread her mantle over my shoulders, I have for some time been planning a children's book of my own: "Mr.Whitman and the Very, Very Tall Tower."

And of course "Family Guy" weighed in on this subject as well:

Peter: I'm looking for a toilet training book.

Book Store Owner: "Everybody Poops" is still the standard one. We also have the less popular "Nobody Poops but You."

Peter: See we're Catholic so, uhhh...

Book Store Owner: Oh, then you want "You're a Naughty Child, and That's Nothing but Pure Concentrated Evil Coming Out the Back End of You."


At 1:26 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

You may wanna kill me, but I always thought "Quinn the Eskimo" was a pointless kiddie song.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

Slow Train is much better than the follow up record, Saved

At 6:15 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I felt really old a few weeks ago. "Rolling Stone" or some other publication had a "Remember When" or some such feature, showing a photo of Dylan in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall in 1983 at the bar mitzvah of his eldest son Jesse (who now looks like a Persian Jabba the Hutt). This was considered by many the end of Dylan's Jesus phase.

I turned to the ubiquitous James and said, "My God, I remember when this appeared in the 'Star Tracks' section of 'People' magazine, 22 years ago!"

For some reason I can't remember people's names or faces worth a damn from one minute to the next, but I can remember trivia and stuff I saw in books and magazines.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I knew there were a lot of celebs getting in on this, but I hadn't realized how many. In addition to those on the list below, I think others include Emeril Lagasse, John Lithgow, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah, Duchess of York, and Kirk Douglas (who has re-embraced his Jewish faith and started writing books of Bible stories and other moral tales).

# Jimmy Buffet, The Jolly Mon
# Jimmy & Amy Carter, The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer
# Prince of Wales Charles , The Old Man of Lochnagar
# Patricia Cornwell, Life's Little Fable
# Bill Cosby, series: Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers
# Katie Couric, The Brand New Kid
# Mario Cuomo, The Blue Spruce
# Jamie Lee Curtis, Where Do Balloons Go?, Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born, Today I Feel Silly, When I Was Little : A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth
# Dom DeLuise, Golidlocks, The Nightingale, Charlie the Caterpillar, King
# Bob's New Clothes, Hansel and Gretel
# Julie Andrews Edwards, Mandy , The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles , Little Bo: The Story of Bonnie Boadicea
# Julie Andrews Edwards & Emma Hamilton Blake, Dumpy the Dumptruck
# Sarah Ferguson (Fergie), Budgie: the Little Helicopter, Budgie: At Bendick's Point
# Jerry Garcia, The Teddy Bears' Picnic, There Ain't No Bugs on Me, What will Jenny Jenkins Wear?
# Whoopi Goldberg, Alice
# Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster), A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad, Easy to See Why, Pondlarker, The Sixteen-Hand Horse, The Story of Ick, Ick's ABC, What's Nude?
# Susan Hampshire, Rosie's Ballet Slippers
# Naomi Judd, Naomi Judd's Love Can Build a Bridge, Naomi Judd's Guardian Angels
# Larry & Chaia King, Daddy Day, Daughter Day
# John Lithgow, The Remarkable Farkle McBride, Marsupial Sue (due out in October)
# Bette Midler, The Saga of Baby Divine
# Deborah Norville, I Don't Want to Sleep Tonight, I Can Fly (due out in March)
# Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors
# Dini Petty, The Queen, the Bear, and the Bumblebee
# Della Reese, God Inside of Me
# Faith Ringgold, Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, Tar Beach, The Invisible Princess, If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, My Dream of Martin Luther King, Dinner at Aunt Connie's House
# (Dr.) Laura Schlessinger, Why Do You Love Me?, Dr. Laura Schlessinger's But I Waaannt It!
# Pete Seeger, Abiyoyo
# Jane Seymour (with James Keach), Eat, Talk, Play, Me & Me (all in the This One and That One block books series), Boing!: No Bouncing on the Bed, This
# One 'N That One in Splat!: The Tale of a Colorful Cat (both This One 'N That One)
# Ally Sheedy, She Was Nice to Mice
# (Judge) Judy Sheindlin, Judge Judy Sheindlin's You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover: Cool Rules for School, Judge Judy Sheindlin's Win or Lose by How You Choose!
# Maria Shriver, What's Heaven?
# Carly Simon, Amy the Dancing Bear, The Nighttime Chauffeur, The Fisherman's Song, The Boy of the Bells, Midnight Farm
# Will Smith, Just the Two of Us (due out in April)
# Danielle Steel, Martha's New Puppy, Max Runs Away
# John Travolta, Propeller One-Way Night Coach

At 6:57 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Damn Bankston, thanks for writing the rest of the story.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Sorry, chief. Idle hands and all, you know.

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curious. How many people here have kids and/or read books directed at kids? I think celebrities get in the game of writing a lot of trash they're not equipped to write because their name is thought to sell books or songs or poems or self help books or diet books or whatever. People are drawn to write childrens books because they're thought to be shorter and simpler. Sort of like screenplays. But the truth of course is that a good childrens book is about ten times harder to write than a good "adult" book because it needs to say complicated tragic or whimsical things with simplicity and usually humor. The good ones anyway.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Before Triple J cast himself as Richard Gere to my Julia Roberts--okay, maybe a bad comparison--before he discovered me and turned me on to the big lights, that is, I had some involvement in kid's lit.

I was for 3 1/2 years a clerk in a used bookstore, and volunteered to run the children's room there, imposing order over its chaos. I was the only male who'd ever held that position, as it had been dismissed as "women's work."

Then I worked for 2 years as a part-time K-12 private school librarian and as a scout for out-of-print books (pre-1970 and British titles a speciality) at a children's bookstore. I was the only male ever to work for the latter in its 20+ year history.

I have thousands of children's books, and still read a great many children's titles every year, possibly in a Charles Foster Kane-like attempt to recapture my lost innocence.

I totally agree, Anonymous, with you about kid's lit., and that's why I give "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling her props. Now normally anything that popular with that many people, especially something so popular it can be bought at the grocery store or Wal-Mart, I would snobbishly avoid, but dammit, the lady's a good storyteller.

And though some on the Religious Right think she's secretly recruiting kids to the occult, her work is firmly in the tradition of such British writers as CS Lewis, Edith Nesbit, Enid Blyton, and others.

She's also pulled kids away from their video games and gotten them to read, and some of these books are over 700 pages long, and brother, that's no mean achievement. I cannot help but be amused at all the other children's book series that have popped up in her wake. I wonder how many of these other books are good and how many are just attempts to cash in.

I have an adult friend who hates to read, who always complains, "Oh not another book" when I give him one at Christmas. He admits to staying up until 2am on work nights reading Happy Potter book. Okay, so Rowling is no Proust or Joyce, but she's gotta have something going for her.

And last, but by no means least, Rowling was on the dole when she started her first Potter book less than a decade ago. Now she's the first-ever billionaire writer, and is the richest woman in England, richer even than the Queen. And that all came from writing. So yeah, I've gotta take my hat off to her.

But there are many other children's books and writer that I admire, that have created deep impressions that have stayed with me for decades.

If I could write fiction worth a damn I'd be taking a crack at the kid's lit market myself.

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely agree with you on JK, Bankston. She's a good writer and, more importantly, a very good storyteller. She's not Joyce, but she's better than most published writers, especially as the series has ground on (though some of her middle books could be tightened a bit). There's nothing pyschologically or emotionally easy in her stories and characters aren't neatly redeemed by tragedy -- they basically just suffer and shoulder on -- which strikes me as more honest.

There's no question that she's the real deal.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Among the more legit writers, even Michael Chabon tried his hand at a massive kid's novel, "Summerland," a few years back. He claimed he wasn't necessarily trying to cash in on the Potter phenom, but admitted that had such a thing not existed he might not have toyed with the idea of writing a children's book.

I've got a copy, but I've got a backlog of his stuff to read, and many other books besides, and since I read very, very slowly, there's no telling when or if I'll ever get to it. I still haven't read "Kavalier and Clay" or "Wonder Boys," though I did recently see the movie of the latter.

There is enough of the English major in me to wonder if when the last book in the Potter series comes out that we'll finally see some grand hidden structure, somewhat akin to the Christian allegory of the Narnia books. Rowling has hinted at such a thing. Daniel Radcliffe, the kid that plays Harry in the movies, said recently he hopes the character gets killed off in the end, sacrificing his life to vanquish the evil Lord Voldemort. No telling at this point.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Bankston,would love to hear your thoughts on Kerouac's novel, Pic. It's written from the perspective of a young, black boy in Carolina, I think.

Been years since I read it.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I know of it, but haven't read it...wait...

Had to go check my Kerouac shelf.

The books I have that aren't in boxes or columns on the floor are stacked two-deep on the shelves. I wasn't sure I had "Pic," but it turns out I do. It's published together with "Satori in Paris," a fave of mine, in one volume. For some reason I thought "Dr. Sax" was the other half.

Guess I will have to add that to my list.

Never read "the Town and the City" either, but was told the scene where the dad dies is heart-breaking.


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