Thursday, November 24, 2022

Christine Brooke-Rose, Between (1968)

I was not kidding when I said I was going to follow up the Freddy marathon with "some bristly, avant-garde fiction."  I've been neglecting Brooke-Rose, but she's still one of my favorites, and here's the third book from the Christine Brooke-Rose Omnibus.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Dragon (1958)

So...there is Crime in Centerboro: people's stuff is getting stolen, and businesses are being forced to pay protection money.  People suspect Freddy and, no joke, some of them want to lynch him.  Jesus, Brooks.  What are you doing?  Well, they figure out the gang's deal.  It's led by some random dude named Jack who barely appears and gets literally no dialogue (he's briefly seen disguised as a headless horseman, hence the cover).  Well, they stop him.  And his gang.  The “dragon” is a Chinese-dragon-type contraption built by Uncle Ben to help this kid have a circus—the same kid who appeared in another book way near the beginning of the series; I can't remember.  We also meet Percy, the cows' father, who's all rude and stuff until Samuel Jackson the mole, hiding underground, poses as his conscience and gets him to change his rude, rude ways.  It's pretty silly (and there's essentially no father-daughter drama, if that's what you're after).  Anyway, that's about that.  Oh yeah, did I mention the barely-there subplot where there's a kitten who wants Jinx to teach her to purr and this is like one paragraph and then it's very briefly mentioned again at the end and that's ALL?  Doesn't feel like Brooks' heart was necessarily in it, though that may just have been his body giving out.  This was published posthumously.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans (1957)

Okay, staggering towards the finish the spite of the “flying saucer” right there in the title, you wouldn't really call this “science fiction” except incidentally.  This is actually...I suppose a “spy novel,” if anything.  The idea is that after people saw how powerful the Martians' flying saucer was, everyone wanted to get their hands on it and the Martians just got sick of it all and fucked off back to Mars.  But Uncle Ben, being a genius, has written up plans to make one of his own to provide the US with, I suppose, a Space Force avant la lettre.  But oh no!  Foreign Spies want the plans for their own nefarious purposes!  So to get rid of them, our heroes concoct a scheme where Freddy pretends to steal the plans, only actually he steals fake plans and lets the spies steal them.  Is he worried about his reputation?  Well, “any good American would sacrifice his reputation to get flying saucers for his country.”  All right then.  This is made difficult by the fact that there are actually spies from tons of different countries (I believe seventeen is the number specified), and they're all trying to stop one another, so it's hard to get the plans to just one.  But Freddy does, only to have it revealed that, oops, Ben actually gave him the REAL plans.  JESUS CHRIST, Ben.  So now we gotta get that back, which for some unclear reason involves Freddy disguising himself as a gypsy woman (hoo boy).  It should've been revealed in the ending that the “real” plans still didn't work.  That woulda made the whole thing admittedly kind of funny, if trolly.

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and Simon the Dictator (1956)

Aside from one passing reference to that time they tried to go to Mars, there is no mention here of the science-fiction stuff.  Men from Mars?  Never heard of 'em! 

So SOMEONE is riling up the animals against their human overlords.  The book tries a bit to create suspense over who, but...come on, man.  That title.  Simon is aided in his efforts by Herb Garble, the most-recurring villain in the series, who keeps trying to ship Freddy to his uncle's slaughterhouse in Montana.  Anyway, a lot of animals, wild and domestic, DO rise up against humans.  Can the loyalists stop them?  What do you think?  There's also a parallel plot where Mr. Camphor is being convinced against his better judgment to run for governor of New York.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars (1955)

That's right: the baseball team.  From Mars.  Fair or not, it's impossible not to see that title and think, Walter, you have officially run out of ideas.  I want to first draw your attention to that cover, which I do like: see Freddy, there, in glasses and a false beard?  That's him in disguise—a disguise that flawlessly fools everyone throughout the novel.  I've noted on more than one occasion that one trope of Disney comics is the terrible disguise that nonetheless works perfectly.  Whatever Brooks may think of comics, he's getting in on a little of that action!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Men from Mars (1954)

This one is only related to Freddy and the Space Ship in a very loose way: Uncle Ben's space ship IS a thing, but it doesn't play much of a role in the proceedings; you could fairly easily lose it and just pretend that the previous book never happened.  The presence of men from Mars is kind of incidental.  So Herb Garble—the villain of Freddy and the Bean Home News and other books—has found some Martians!  They're on display at Mr. Boomschmidt's circus.  Only, as it turns out, not.  It's actually just Simon and some of his gang disguised as Martians (that's them on the cover; the real Martians are more spider-like).  But what's this?  Then REAL Martians land, conveniently enough!  Don't worry; they're friendly.  But Freddy & Co still have to deal with the rats and Garble.  Also, they've kidnapped two of Charles' and Henrietta's children, Chiquita and, uh, Little Broiler.  They're worried about them being eaten, but as far as the latter goes, nominative determinism, people!  You might as well have named him McNugget.  Also, I believe this is the first we've ever heard of the two of them having a son.  I think the idea previously was that it was all daughters, leaving Charles figuratively and literally henpecked.

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Friday, October 14, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, The Collected Poems of Freddy the Pig (1953)

So, before we continue, we should at least briefly note this: another one that I definitely just read for the first time!  What is it?  Well...what it says, more or less.  This includes most—though definitely not all—of the poems that have appeared throughout the series, as well as a few extras.  I certainly don't have an encyclopedic memory of all the verse throughout, but I did note a few omissions: it doesn't include the poem at the end of Freddy Plays Football (“Blackbeard the Tush-villain/had a wife and two chillun”), or the poem that the Horribles sing to Arthur the cat near the end of Freddy Rides Again, or all but a small excerpt of the play-in-verse at the end of Freddy's Cousin Weedly (also nothing from Freddy and the Space Ship, but that's probably just because the two books were in preparation simultaneously).  My impression is that possibly poems were left out that, it was felt, required too much context from the relevant novels to understand  Perhaps!  I think that is a poor excuse, however.  It would be a pretty darn slim volume anyway; might as well go for broke.  There are many new illustrations from Wiese; due to the volume he was required to produce and/or to the fact that this is a different sort of project from the novels, they tend to be a lot simpler than those; more brief line doodles than anything else.  Despite and/or because of this, they have their own breezy charm.

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