Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bea’s Books (8)

Bea requests ice cream. I dutifully fetch a bowl. After two spoonfuls, she turns her head away.

“Don’t you want your ice cream?” I ask, baffled by her behavior.

“I want ice cream on my own terms,” says she.

The absurdity of the statement feels like a good introduction to an unusual book on Bea’s bookshelf. My son used to make a beeline for it when we arrived in summer, although he claims now not to remember. Euphoria is an appropriate term to describe the state those cartoon drawings produced. He was fascinated. I have a memory of him sitting on the couch next to Bea, who would slowly turn pages. I’m sure he didn’t understand all that was happening to the naked people in Abner Dean’s 1947 What Am I Doing Here?, but that did not matter. The humor, profundity, and craziness moved him. He and his grandma enjoyed a quiet moment together.

Bea also showed the book to her granddaughters. What Am I Doing Here? became part of my children’s summer.

I hold it in my hand now. The back cover shows a surprised man with a gag over his mouth and a heavy rope around his neck. He is being dragged across what appears to be the top of the world. When you turn the book over, you see a blindfolded man, with the rope slung over his shoulder, who is pulling his companion along behind him.

This book is brilliant. The Internet being what it is, I found a page on a website devoted to devotees. Of course, they would like to have a new edition published, which sounds like a great idea.

Strangely enough, although What Am I Doing Here? appeared the year I was born, I do not remember Bea’s sharing it with me. Grandchildren, children – not the same thing!

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