Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Classic Literature / 1970's Radio

In 1972, when I was 7, I received a boxed set of “Classic Literature”. Yes, I was miles too young to be investigating such things, but I was a precocious reader and besides my parents probably picked up this cardboard box of public domain paperbacks for cheap at Gemco or T.G.&Y.

And so I moved directly from “Green Eggs and Ham” to “1984”.

This explains an awful lot of why I am the way that I am.

 There were a lot of books in the little cardboard slipcover box, and I eagerly gave each one a test drive:
  1.      In the first story in the Jack London book the lone character is freezing in the Yukon, being pursued by a pack of wolves and eventually dies because he cannot build a fire. Cool.
  2.      In the first 40 pages of the H.G. Wells book martians attack England with gigantic tripod, tentacled walking machines that spit deadly lasers from old-timey lanterns. Oh yeah.
  3.      40 pages in to Moby Dick..........yawn........Queequag introduces himself and describes a harbor. Huh. I skipped ahead to where the title character is introduced. Chapter 123. Fail.
  4.      The first story from Ray Bradbury had a mutant girl who was locked in a closet by her mean friends so she wouldn’t see an eclipse - which then blinds everyone but her. Niiice.
  5.      Animal Farm was all about a farmyard where pigs control everything. As a 2nd grader I had no idea of any other sort of subtext going on, but I still thought this was awesome. 4 legs good! Two legs bad!
  6.      The opening scene of Mary Shelley's book has Victor Frankenstein in a dog sled in the arctic being chased by The Monster who just wants to reconcile with the man who made him. Somebody really ought to make a film of this book someday.
  7.      The first 40 pages of the Red Badge of Courage has our protagonist worried that he is a coward. Also the next 40 pages. And the next 100. Fail.
  8.      Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1867) begins with a bunch of Civil War veterans, all missing a limb or two, discussing how a moon rocket would have to be launched from the coast of Southern Florida to be successful. Whoa.
  9.      On the 4th page of "A Study in Scarlet" Sherlock Holmes shakes Dr. Watson's hand for the first time and says "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." HOOKED.
  10.      Speaking of Scarlet, In the opening of the Scarlet Letter Hester PRINN walks out of a building, and past a bush that is flowering. FLOWERING. There, right there, 7 years old, I figured out what Symbolism is, and also that I thought it was stupid, pointless, useless and stupid. Plus, it was totally obvious whodunnit. Or whodunnHER. Fail.
1970's Radio

I grew up in the 1970's listening to the radio in the car, and I was a literal-minded child and so some of the songs were confusing to me:
  1.      You're crossing the desert on horseback. You have plenty of time on your hands. Just name the flippin' horse!
  2.       "We made love in my Chevy Van, and that's all right with me". Well goodie for you buddy, but let's hear from your girlfriend.
  3.      "Excuse me while I kiss this guy". Decades later I bought the Jimi Hendrix Experience boxed set, and on one of the live versions of Purple Haze, Jimi very clearly enunciates KISS THAT GUY. So I feel some validation on this one.
  4.     "Didn't we almost make it, this time". Make WHAT? The track team? Pop tarts? What is it that they are trying to make?
  5.      The Pina Colada song is about two people who are mistakenly cheating on each other, WITH each other. I always imagined an additional verse, where they suddenly realize this and beat the crap out of each other.
  6.      "Bye Bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the Levee, but the levee was dry". But hey, here we are in my Chevy van........
  7.      "He's killing me softly with his song". Roberta, Honey; stop listening. Get him to practice outside or put on some headphones or something.
  8.      Thanks for asking, Rod, but no I do not think you are sexy.
  9.      "Blinded by the Light, ripped up like a douche, another groaner in the night". W.T.F....?!
  10.      Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree is about a guy who spent 3 years in prison (for an undisclosed {presumably non-violent} offense) and is writing his girlfriend, wondering if he will be welcomed home. To his delight when the bus stops in front of his house there are 100 yellow ribbons around the tree. All fine and dandy, but I always wanted to hear an answer version of this song, from the Old Oak Tree's point of view, where it resents all of those ribbons, plus it has to hear the two humans making love in the driveway in the Chevy van, and it crushes 'em, like the Whomping Willow. POW!

Angus McMahan
angusmcmahan@gmail.com
@AngusMcMahan

P.S. Also included in the book set was Nathaniel Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables", wherein a character spends the first 40 pages descending a flight of stairs. A single flight of stairs, mind you, not the Statue of Liberty or something. I left this one out of the list because I already picked on Nat for "The Scarlet Letter", which pissed me off a lot more than "Seven Gables".

(Pics from: Penguin.com, ebay, PCmag.com and stellar-tv.com)


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