Wednesday, October 19, 2005
For your consideration...
I offer the follow.
This is a book the AF found in the local bookshop and loved. The graphic is from Amazon where you can search inside and also order.
Uncle Boris in the Yukon by Daniel Pinkwater
A series of delightful anecdotes that introduce a curious cast of canines, including a couple of wolves, a Labrador retriever, a few more malamutes. . . .A "mordantly funny and smartly entertaining mix of memoir and fancy" (Booklist), Uncle Boris in the Yukon shows us a world where, though Pinkwater is top dog, it's the four-legged companions who steal the show.
DANIEL PINKWATER is regarded by critics, educators, psychologists, and law enforcement agencies as the world's most influential writer of books for children and young adults, and has also written several books for adults. Since 1987, he has been a regular commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He lives in Hyde Park, New York.
Here is an interview with the author.
Q: We've read about the Malamute Kid in Jack London's book, but in Uncle Boris's "Alyska" experience, you introduce us to the Kootenai Yid (aka Jacob Grossberg)—that's a new one. So, tell us, is the Kootenai Yid, or at least Jacob Grossberg, a real person?
A: What, or who, is a real person? This question has occupied the thoughts of philosophers, authors, and loonies down through the centuries. I could say that the Kootenai Yid was entirely fictitious, but then some descendent of his would surely complain. (This sort of thing happens all the time). I could say that he really existed, and nobody would be the wiser, if he did or if he didn't. So, the Kootenai Yid, Jacob Grossberg, was a real person, who later lived in "San Fransiskie," and was a familiar figure in the streets during the "Summer of Love" in 1967.
Q: At one point in this enchanting shaggy dog storybook, you visit a kennel where you meet a pet wolf, Matilda, who expresses some interest in your camera bag. "What's this, a bag? I like bags. It's my bag now. I can have it if I want, because I'm a wolf." Do you think this comment and the ones that follow truly reflect the thoughts in Matilda's mind? Are wolves like Matilda elitist animals—alpha all the way despite that "winsome" expression?
A: I, personally, in the flesh, have only, "interacted," as we say, with two wolves. One was the prototype for Matilda, and the other a captive wolf living with naturalists, whose story was much the same as Matilda's. Both animals, and all the others I have heard about who had occasion to deal with humans, were perfectly obnoxious in their never-ending "calling to attention" their status as wolves and wild animals. Wolves are more hierarchical than elitist—but it's perfectly clear to them that the worst wolf outranks the best human. Take off all your clothes and look in the mirror. Then look at a wolf. You'll find that you agree.
Q: In the news recently was a story about a new animal communication tool that is being used to translate the meaning of a dog's barking, snuffling, whining, or howling. Compared to human research into whale and dolphin communication, the efforts and progress to understand "our best friends" seems to lag behind. Why, after all these years of domestication have we not yet learned the language of our favorite pets?
A: I don't like to venture an opinion as to why humans are, for the most part, too stupid to figure out what dogs are saying to them with every fiber of their being. I will say that my dogs appear to understand every word I say.
Q: There is often some truth in humor—but not always. How much, if any, is true of your humorous references to a defective family life? And, if any of it is true, does it still affect you or just serve as a great source of creative inspiration?
A: Defective? I don't know what you mean. You think my family is defective? Are you deliberately trying to insult me? I have a nephew who can mess you up. You want me to call him? As soon as he gets out of juvenile hall, he will fix your clock for you.
Q: We sometimes judge other people's general capabilities based on a pet's public or private behavior. The dog training stories in Uncle Boris in the Yukon are joys to read and clearly emphasize that the individuality of an animal can really skew a stereotypical statistic. What do you have to say to those who have difficulties with their pet's thieving, screaming, or other bad behavior?
A: It's very simple, and everyone knows it. If you have an ill-behaved pet, you are a bad person. Why do you ask?
Q: Despite your years of artistic training, Jill is the one who created the cover art for Uncle Boris in the Yukon. What is Jill's background in the arts and how did she usurp your position on the cover?
A: Jill attended an exclusive girls' college known for its encouragement of artistic expression. Not only did she do the cover and interior illustrations for Uncle Boris in the Yukon, she has illustrated at least 20 children's books written by me in the past six years. The reason? Take off all your clothes and look in the mirror. Then look at books I have illustrated. Then look at the books Jill has illustrated. You'll see instantly that she is a much, much better artist than I am. (The taking off your clothes and looking in the mirror has nothing to do with our comparative artistic skills—it was just to give me another laugh). I would like to add that since Jill took over the illustrating, sales of our books has quintupled.
Q: What's next on the agenda for you and Jill?
A: Jill and I look forward to taking her car in for service, and also to making appointments for tooth cleaning. We are also working on some books.