Yesterday, I wrote about James Thurber, whose writing blends a love and mastery of language with a healthy sense of the absurd. A more contemporary writer who shares Thurber’s skill in both these areas is Daniel Pinkwater. The New York Review of Books has re-released Pinkwater’s wonderfully odd book Lizard Music, and I was glad to be able to add that to my shelves.
Young Victor, a fan of Walter Cronkite and TV news in general, is all alone at his house for the week—his parents are having a rough time and have gone off on a trip to reconnect, while his older sister who is supposed to be watching him has headed off with her hippie friends to the Cape. It is a typical start to a coming of age story, isn’t it? Where Pinkwater takes you from here, though, is anything but ordinary. Victor falls asleep while watching the news and wakes to stumble across a late-night TV show featuring human-sized lizards playing music. He heads off to the nearby city of Hogboro, and keeps running into an old man with a chicken on his head, to say nothing of constant references to lizard musicians. Suffice it to say that things only get odder from here on out.
Pinkwater’s deadpan delivery and comic timing make this a perfect read for pretty much anyone. Victor is an appealing lead character, and he does learn some things about himself throughout the course of the book. But it is the surreal humor and the pleasant oddness that characterize Pinkwater’s writing that really are the attractions here. If you like this one, there are lots of other Pinkwater books to choose from (I would recommend The Hoboken Chicken Emergency; Pinkwater has a way with chickens!).
Check the WRL catalog for Lizard Music