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Author Archive: "Barry Yourgrau"

The Slimming of Santa; or, Kringle’s Cruel Yule

Everybody knows merry Santa Claus is fat.
But in this day and age, there's something unhealthy about that.

"Don't you watch the news?" cries Santa's hip wife.
"Chubby's bad, lean is good. So get a new life!"

"What, give up my Twinkies?" gasps Santa, with a shudder.
"Just throw 'em all out? And never enjoy another?"

"Yes, your Twinkies, and trans-fats, and silly snack bits —
And gimme those pretzels!" cries Mrs. Kringle. And she practically spits.

"Not my pretzels — no, never! They're what keeps me jolly!"
This Santa protests, adding, "And to heck with the holly!"

Away frantic Kringle huffs through the house,
Clutching his pretzels and pursued by his spouse.

He wheezes for the stairs, but he's so flaboso (the lardo lunk),
He sprawls — oof! — down on top of his pretzels, with a squashy crunchy clunk!

"Aha!" crows his wifey. "So let this be your lesson.
From now on it's bean sprouts, Krissie, and green beans, with a smidgen of dressin'!"

And so this Christmas if you spot Santa, why he'll be slim as a reed.
But no jolly "Ho-Ho-Ho!" Just a muttered ravenous, "Bah, humbug…" Indeed…

<>

Barry Yourgrau's third Nastybook will be published this spring. Yet Another NASTYbook: MiniNasties includes poems, ...


Manga

One of the wrinkles we threw into Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties was that a couple of times, the novel turns into manga for a bit, then back to novel. The hero, you see, is a manga-besotted kid named Rollo (who's also a candy-bar lover, as I've amply suggested.). My editor found us a terrific artist named Robert DeJesus to do the manga artwork.

Myself, I'm not a great reader of manga, though I've perused a few, and I know kids are lapping the stuff up, increasingly. When I was a kid, back in the day, I devoured Classics Illustrated, which are/were comic-book versions of grand old books like Treasure Island and The Red Badge of Courage. These versions were graphic enough that I recall a bedtime when my brother screeched in horror that he could see a corpse from The Red Badge of Courage comic right there in the dark corner of our room! (My brother, poor guy, is now in a mental facility.) (I joke.)

I'm more of an immediate enthusiast of anime. Hayao Miyazake's piggy Porco Rosso, for instance, I think is a mouth-agape masterpiece, with that goony ...


Blues Country

I'm a blues boy now. Another NASTYbook tour, homestretch — groggily off the plane in Memphis (having risen pre-4 a.m. in Dayton) and my author escort, Pat, guns the motor to make a local TV interview. I hustle onto the set — lobby of a downtown mall — just in time to mike up and yuck-yuck with the show hosts for five precious minutes. "It's a book about being nuts for candy bars!" I hoot. "Hey, that me all right!" the guy host hoots back. Then off to Barnes and Noble, where the scheduled grand reading for busloads of kids has been cancelled last second due to "testing." So does No Child Left Behind shove its stick into spokes everywhere. A mom and her two kids, though, show up: homeschoolers. "Our teaching emphasizes character," mom informs me cordially. Why does that word make me twitch with foreboding, as if I'll shortly be denounced as the duplicitous social menace I really am? The homeschoolers aren't content just to chat, god bless em; so we head over to the reading platform and I read aloud my Nasty stories to an audience of three, at close quarters. With nasty delight I ...


School Barnstorming

One revelation as a kids' author has been discovering the infastructure for selling children's books. Who knew (me not having kids) about the big business of bookstores arranging author appearances at schools?

So Anderson's, a fine independent bookstore in Naperville right by Chicago — Powell's, of course, is an indie in a national class by itself; but indies should be supported everywhere — has set up two school visits for me. In the morning, I have 250 6th graders in a school cafeteria in Plainfield; after lunch, another 75 seated on school carpeting in Aurora. I love these visits, daunting as the idea first was. They're pure, old-fashioned barnstorming; and the Q&As are ever wonderful. Dealing with kids, on the page or in person, seems to require clarity on an adult's part. It's great dramatic exercise.

It's also a delightful challenge, figuring on the spot which of my provocative stuff is going to go over. (I'm here to provoke, see.) At the morning school I read from Another NASTYbook, which is a send-up of quest novels, essentially a book where everyone is plumb crazy for candy bars. A world a-Cursed by sweets. ("Who here ...


LA Huffing

Stage Two of Another NASTYbook tour???

Getting into LA late, I huff along breakneck to make the cocktail party at Arianna Huffington's house during the LA Times Book Fest. I'm going to meet the admirable Arianna, as I've recently started blogging at Huffingtonpost. "Glad you're able to vent, and connect with fellow venters!" sniped the neo-Thatcherite new-media mogul who helped make it happen. Well, touché. But it beats continuously just hurling the NY Times to the floor and mashing out incoherent letters to the editor. Or roaring at dinner parties until one is forbidden to mention politics at table.

And when major-media's role as democracy watchdog is being honored mainly by Comedy Central, well, what's not to thank Huffpost and its barking blog fellows?

The big house in Brentwood is, naturally, a mob scene. I squeeze in to say my hiya to Arianna, four seconds worth. She is surprisingly tall, and powerfully glamorous, with a splendid smile and a great mane of hair. The honoree of the evening is her pal
Kathy Freston, also very tall, glamorous, with a great mane of hair — and a new practical-spiritual book, The One, about finding ...


Lunching with Lemony or Periwinkle Perils

I've just back in New York from touring for my brand new kids' novel, Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties. Some highlights...

My tour starts off in San Francisco, with a little literary lunch at the ever-wonderful Zuni Café. At table with me are writer Daniel Handler, who's of course notoriously associated with mysterious master of misery, Lemony Snicket, and Andrew Sean Greer, author of the marvelous Confessions of Max Tivoli. Over aperitifs (Campari and soda, Austrian rieslings) I ask Daniel how Lemony's doing. Has he, um, seen Lemony recently? (I'm sure he gets tired of the question!) "Oh, he's fine, I see him all the time," Daniel sighs. (Regretfully?) "Lucky you," I murmur. A plate of periwinkles arrives, in honor of a memorable romantic dinner Andrew had here one time. We get digging with toothpicks and properly chatting. Daniel will be reading War and Peace this summer, he announces. I tell him to check out another Russian, the émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov, who died a few years ago and is the most influential literary figure of recent generations. For example, Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan) tips his Russian hat to him. ...


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