Laughter and Resistance: Humor as a Weapon in the Age of Trump (Horn Book)

In its new issue, The Horn Book joins the resistance. If the previous statement is a slight overstatement (and it is, because the magazine’s values have opposed those of Trumpism since before it acquired that name), it is only a slight overstatement.  The May-June 2017 issue includes at least four pieces critical of the current regime:…

Setup Wizard

Attention Harry Potter Fans! While you await Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (script to be published July 31), check out The Setup Wizard, the “Daily Accounts of a Muggle I.T. Guy working at Hogwarts.”  Its premise is that, at Hogwarts, “students and staff alike have finally caved and demanded that their cell phones work on school…

At the Drop of a Hat: A Dozen Essential Songs by Flanders and Swann

We’ve had a lot of luck with records. Some of the songs that have made our names a household word — like “slop-bucket” — are the little series of animal songs that we’ve been writing. — Michael Flanders, introduction to “The Gnu,” At the Drop of a Hat (1960) As Michael Flanders says, the animal songs made…

David Bowman, Surrealist & Satirist

David Bowman — the writer, not the character in 2001: A Space Odyssey — died on February 27.  He was 54.  His obituary ran in this past Sunday’s Times.  He and I have had an on-and-off correspondence since the fall of 2000.  Upon reading his obituary, I realized (guiltily) that I’d failed to answer his…

Dr. Seuss on “conditioned laughter,” racist humor, and why adults are “obsolete children”

In 1952, Dr. Seuss published an essay in which he pointedly critiqued racist humor. True, his own work — both before and after then — did contain stereotypes. In an essay that’s been languishing at American Quarterly since August 2010, I examine the conflict between Seuss’s progressive impulses and a visual imagination steeped in early…

Syd Hoff, A. Redfield, and Me: Part II

Inspired by BoingBoing’s notice of my post on Syd Hoff’s leftist cartoons, I’m sharing another letter from the late Mr. Hoff, along with a cartoon from 1939.  As those who remember his first letter to me might recall, he and I corresponded — and spoke over the phone a few times — when I was working on…

Friday. Camp?

In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve. — Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp” (1964) — Rebecca Black, “Friday” (2011)…

It Looks Like Snow

As winter continues its assault, let’s turn to a classic book about winter: It Looks Like Snow (Greenwillow, 1957), Remy Charlip‘s picture-book tribute to John Cage.  Like Cage’s 4’33” (1952), Charlip’s piece makes the audience’s experience the subject of its experiment.  The primary difference of course is the specific sense through which we apprehend the art…

Animated Books

Just discovered this short film by Sean Ohlenkamp and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp: “Organizing the Bookcase.”  Charming, brief, with a delightful sense of humor, and… lots of books!  (Make sure you stay for the credits!) Hat tip to Bookshelf Porn, which I found via Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8. Update, 5 Sept. 2011: YouTube video had moved…

Oh, the Thinks That He Thought! Some of Seuss’s lesser-known works

Born 107 years ago today in Springfield Mass., Theodor Seuss Geisel had an extraordinarily prolific career.  Most people know him for the 44 books he wrote and illustrated under the name “Dr. Seuss.”  But that’s only part of his career.  He wrote another 13 books under the name “Theo. LeSieg,” one book as “Rosetta Stone,”…