Friday, May 19, 2017

Gobler Toys: The Fun We Can't Remember by Steve Casino and Steve Fink

I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for fake non-fiction: the kind of books that barefacedly claim something untrue, and spin that out at great length, completely straight-faced. It can be a serious history book like For Want of a Nail, or a puckish natural history guide like Dragons: The Modern Infestation, or an encyclopedic takedown of an entire genre like The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Or, as here, a heavily-illustrated nostalgic guide to the best-known products of a post-war toymaker that is slightly hampered by the fact of never actually existing.

Steve Casino and Steve Fink -- both of them equally toilers in the toy mills and collectors of brightly-colored plastic crap from their own late-Boomer youths -- have constructed the story of a company only a little too silly to be real, and its weird genius of a founder, Ira Gobler, in Gobler Toys: The Fun We Can't Remember.

The toys here are almost plausible, like a Weeble-esque toy for kids to climb into and drive around called Gobler's Wobblers. They all look like the detritus of some slightly quirkier universe, where a pull-toy called Senor Sandwich -- which smells like real salami! -- could have been a smash hit in the early 60s.

And the quirky head of that company also is nearly believable, with his penchant for publicity and knack for creating popular fads -- though his insistence that all of his genius comes from tugging on his "neck skin" (six inches of excess flesh hanging below his face) will make all but the most gullible suspect something is up.

As you might imagine, this was a website first, and the site is still up -- the book is from 2003, so this was an Internet 1.0 (or maybe 1.1) play, back when Microsoft was the only evil overwhelming tech monopoly. The book is different from the site, and has a lot of material not on the site, though the site does have some video (which books, sadly, still can't provide). It's an obscure book, more or less self-published and over a decade old, but worth searching out for those who like fake history and quirky jokes.

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