I Was a Child

Posted in Book Reports, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on June 6, 2021

The Chamblee library had been closed during the pandemic. The re-opening coincided with PG running out of reading material. He went over there, and naturally did not find anything right away. Finally, a skinny book in the biography section spoke to him. I Was a Child: A Memoir, written by Bruce Eric Kaplan, or BEK.

The author/illustrator does cartoons for The New Yorker. Twenty five years ago, PG worked all the time, and had a cheap lifestyle. He bought magazines, and probably saw a cartoon or two by BEK. Or maybe not. Google/wikipedia are not cooperating with this question: when did BEK start at tny? The *ironic npr listener* style of cartooning is a staple of the magazine, whether BEK draws it or not.

IWAC is about growing up in suburban New Jersey in the sixties and seventies. PG is ten years older than BEK, and considerably less Jewish. The black-and-white-tv mentality described here does ring true. Parents are frazzled old people, brushing their remaining three hairs over a bald scalp. Mom smokes a cigarette she earned, using an heirloom glass ash tray. In PG’s house, the glass ashtray was kidney shaped, and strictly for company. In those days, you had an ashtray.

One time that IWAC moved PG was page 104. BEK is talking about walking with his mother. “She would suddenly shriek, “Watch out for the dog BM’ as if you suddenly explode if you stepped in it.” Mothers have to have a word for feces, for obvious reasons. For some reason, in the fifties, the abbreviation for bowel movement became the proper expression for animal waste. Apparently, this was just as true in New Jersey as Georgia.

The book was an admirable absorber of time for its 191 pages. If it did not have so many drawings, it would have only been 100 pages, if that. It ends with father dying, and BEK going to the family house to get what he wanted. He got the “Its a small world” album, and left the house forever. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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