Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Fish Whistle by Daniel Pinkwater

How did I end up reading a book in electronic form that I've not only read at least once before, but have a perfectly nice hardcover copy of? Well, the details are a bit fuzzy two months later, but I believe that I brought another book to read on the train, and it turned out to be The Wrong Book.

Luckily, I can't remember what that book is, so I'm not even tempted to name it. But any book can be The Wrong Book if you pick it up the wrong day, or are in the wrong mood, or just come to it after the wrong lead-in. (I find that a really good literary novel will sour my taste for passable genre prose for a couple of weeks afterward, for example. Oddly, those novels are also usually emotionally tough, so I don't want another thing like that again, either. This is how middle-aged men like me end up reading so much nonfiction.)

Luckily, I had Fish Whistle in one of the many book-reading apps that I never use on my iPad. (Seriously, I think I have at least five apps for reading book files, two or three for comics, and one for PDFs and odder documents -- and only ever use the last one, mostly for reference while playing videogames.) I either remembered it was there, or, more likely, figured I would just poke through the menus of those apps for a while and waste a commute that way. But I found Fish Whistle, realized I wanted to read it again, and did so.

Fish Whistle is the first of the two books collecting Pinkwater's short essays, which mostly first appeared as NPR commentaries in the late '80s and early '90s. (I keep hoping that Pinkwater kept up the random-essay thing, or the NPR commentator thing, for longer, and other books will eventually surface -- it hasn't happened yet, but I've got patience.) Some are commentaries on things in his life at the moment, some are memoir-ish bits about his life, and a few are closer to actual go-out-there-and-talk-to-people reportage. Almost all of them are 2-3 pages long -- just enough for a funny anecdote read on the radio.

I've been a Pinkwater fan for ages -- I did a few of his books at the SFBC, even, and communicated with him briefly when I wanted to get a cover painting commissioned of his head with fantastic things coming out of it. (He wasn't entirely thrilled with the idea, as I recall, and I think I had to say that I was a fellow fat guy, and not trying to mock him. The cover came out OK, I guess -- like so many pieces of a work-life, just getting it done felt like a victory, and the quality is almost secondary.) So, anyway, I'm the ideal audience for this, and I really liked it. I really liked it when I read it in 1992, and I really liked it now.

I tend to think that if you're reading my blog, you were a smart weird kid, which is Pinkwater's native audience. And his books for adults are for the grownups those smart weird kids turn into, should give this a try, is what I'm saying.

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