Thursday, March 26, 2009

True Fiction, If You Know What I Mean

Well, this is my tenth review here at GLW, and it's time I reviewed a fiction title. And that means I had to choose a Daniel Pinkwater book.

If you have not read any of Mr. Pinkwater's books, shame on you. He is a funny man. I like to read his books for children, for young adults, and for adults (though his polar bear characters are not among my favorites).

The Education of Robert Nifkin is written in the form of Nifkin's college application essay. He describes his life, in high school, and out. Somewhere in the essay, he uses the word, "quodlibet." I had to look it up - "a ... performance composed largely of familiar tunes." And this book is a quodlibet - Pinkwater revisits some familiar characters and territory in it: On school, for example, "I hated it... I was learning that boredom can hurt like physical pain..."

He describes his teachers, who remind me of some that I endured. You may recognize them, too. And the busy work!

When Nifkin writes that he has gotten into an "alternative school," life starts looking up. He is allowed to pursue what he wants to, not have a curriculum forced down his throat. This is a tried and true way to learn.

The people there are quirky, to say the least. But aren't we all?

If you enjoy his fiction (I'm sorry, I can't help it.), two collections of Pinkwater's pieces for NPR's All Things Considered (and Morning Edition?) are worth looking for. If you can, get audiobooks to hear him read Fish Whistle, and Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights. The books have been reissued in one volume, Hoboken Fish and Chicago Whistle. I love this guy. Hope you do, too.

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