July 22, 2002
8:41 AM   Subscribe

Daniel Pinkwater is a big, fat weirdo who writes really hilarious books for smart children and young adults. He can also be heard doing commentary on NPR. His most famous novels include The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, Fat Men From Space, Lizard Music, and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. Some of his books are being slowly republished in omnibus form. You can read an interview with him here, or peruse some obsessive links./
posted by interrobang (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, how I adore Pinkwater. The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, The Last Guru, Lizard Music -- these are the things that heaven is made of. He is equal parts absurd and serious, sad and silly. His fans are numerous, as are his books, and although not all are perfect (his book for 'adults' (as if the others aren't!), The Afterlife Diet, is positively atrocious), he is one of those writers whom I idolize with pride.
posted by Marquis at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2002

Pinkwater gives a good name to fat, bald men everywhere. He also has frequent humorous run-ins with the Car Talk Guys, like when he was looking for a relaxed-fit car for the larger driver [RealAudio file].
posted by evanizer at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2002

Lizard Music absolutely changed my life. I can't quite explain how, but it opened up my brain, and helped me to realize that being a strange kid with a huge imagination wasn't the worst thing in the world. Which was something I desperately needed to hear.
posted by glenwood at 9:09 AM on July 22, 2002

Glenwood: I had exactly the same experience. Lizard Music didn't so much change my life as make me essentially comfortable with being a bit of a weirdo. Mostly, when kids are given the "it's okay to be different" message there's an unspoken "but not really different" rider attached. Lizard Music (and the criminally out-of-print "Magic Moocow/Moscow" books) had no such qualifier.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:22 AM on July 22, 2002

I love this man's books, they invite you into a world that exists just beyond the pale of the average child's imagination-- his books are an inivitation into the adult world of the hilarious, complicated bizarre inanity of life, all accessible via a secret entrace in the mind of a child. A true genius.
posted by cell divide at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2002

I loved reading Pinkwater as a kid. It may be time to revisit hsi books, as my kids are approaching Pinkwater-appreciation age. Glad to see he's being republished.
posted by jazon at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2002

I adore Pinkwater as well, and have for a long time. (He also was very nice to my friend Olga from St. Petersburg, one of the rare Russian scholars of American children's literature, when I arranged for her to go visit him at home in New York.

I've always found his writings for adults, and his radio things, though, not nearly as interesting as his writing for children. Lizard Music is probably his best book, but my favorite always was Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:24 AM on July 22, 2002

Pinkwater had a huge impact on me as a kid, opening my eyes to a world I always had hoped existed. From Pinkwater it was on to Vonnegut, and then to Marquez and Borges...
posted by gwint at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2002

Leave it to a Pinkwater link to bring out the weirdo writers from Maine (like LeLiLo). I always thought that committed Deadheads should read Lizard Music for another way of describing what the Dead meant to them. Witness the description of the trees and leaves on Lizard Island. Or maybe it was an acid trip . . .
posted by dhacker at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2002

Borgel, Lizard Music, and The Worms of Kukumlima. Now I'm going to have to find my old books. :)

I once made a play-doh copy of the island in Lizard Music. Grade 4, I think. :)
posted by ODiV at 9:50 AM on July 22, 2002

Jazon, how old is the "Pinkwater-appreciation age"? I have an extremely imaginative 6-year-old, is why I'm wondering...
posted by Holden at 9:52 AM on July 22, 2002

Jazon, how old is the "Pinkwater-appreciation age"?

4 - 3,000,017.

Your siz-year-old will love 'em fine. Lizard Music and Last Guru are great places to start...
posted by Marquis at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2002

I'm sure "Pinkwater-appreciation age" is different by the kid, but my daughter and I both discovered him when she was seven. Some of it was too old for her, but still fun. Others, like Hoboken Chicken Emergency, were just right.
posted by example at 10:05 AM on July 22, 2002

Leave it to a Pinkwater link to bring out the weirdo writers from Maine (like LeLiLo).

Aw, shucks. I thought I was the only normal guy on this whole island . . . .

"We are going to Invisible Island, over there!" He gestured with his oar. "I don't see any island," I said. "Hence the name," Charlie said. [from Lizard Music, p. 100]
posted by LeLiLo at 11:11 AM on July 22, 2002

Lizard Music truly is the best kids book ever. I agree with the earlier poster that it opens your mind, gives you an entirely different view of the planet. I remember it as the most important reading experience of kidhood. If you can find it, Fish Whistle, a collection of Pinkwater essays from NPR, is pretty amazing, especially when he writes about dogs.
posted by ftrain at 12:49 PM on July 22, 2002

I remember reading Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars in math in fourth grade, and it made a big impact on me. I realized through reading that book that much of what was going on in school was a sham. Not a sham in the conspiracy way, but instead that many of the adults did not have all the answers either.

Like others, Pinkwater let me know that it was OK to view things differently and to get a bit more fun out of life. I know my son will be hearing these books as I read them to him.

On a related note, one book that I thought was written from Pinkwater is not on his book list. Can anyone remember the title of a book about a club or grade school kids who print cards that say "The principal does not exist" except in French. When confronted about the cards by the principal all the club members refuse to discuss it with someone who 'does not exist'.
posted by DragonBoy at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2002

dragonboy: the book you're thinking about is called "young adult novel", and is included in the "five novels" omnibus, linked above.
posted by interrobang at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2002

Fishwhistle is good, but Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights is even better.
posted by nedlog at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2002

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