“Leonard,” Mr. Jerris said, when we went in his office, “we’ve started a corrective gym class. It’s for kids there’s something wrong with–bad posture, fallen arches, and kids who aren’t regular–like you–I mean–no offense, Leonard, but you don’t really want to climb ropes, and get into the Marine Corps, and kill your country’s enemies, do you?”
I said that it wasn’t one of the big goals of my life.
Daniel Pinkwater is weird. His books are weird: well-known ones include The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars; Fat Men from Space; and Borgel. His protagonists are misfits, intelligent, creative, anti-authoritarian, and, one suspects, slightly autobiographical. Reoccurring characters include giant talking lizards, the Chicken man who wears a live chicken as a hat, Rolzup, the prime minister of Mars, and any number of incompetent, crazy, and/or boring high school teachers. His children’s books tend to have cars or fat pirates from space. His young adult novels are counter-cultural and subversive, in a weird way. In Fat Camp Commandos, for example, the protagonists, miffed at being sent to a weight-loss camp, escape and declare war on fat-prejudice. In Borgel, the protagonist runs away with his Uncle Borgel in a trek across space that ends with their literally finding God (who turns out to be a orange popsicle). His adult novels – which are almost nonfiction – tend to talk a lot about dogs – training them, living with them, communing with them.
Daniel Pinkwater is funny. His books are absurd. He uses silly sounding names. A former art major, he illustrates his own picture books and sometimes you wish he wouldn’t. As a misfit kid myself, growing up a queer, intellectual, non-athletic, Jewish atheist in the football-and-Bible part of Texas, his books gave me a community of weirdos and eccentric older relatives that I was lacking in my own life. They gave me the encouragement to do what I wanted, wear what I wanted, not care what other people thought of me. Plus, they’re really incredibly entertaining.