Senin, 21 Oktober 2013

Please Don't Eat The Daisies - Jean Kerr

After I read Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons, I went on a little Google spree to see what others had said about it.  Well, turns out, not an awful lot.  But I did find another name mentioned alongside hers once or twice - and that was Jean Kerr.  She might well be very famous, but I'd not heard of her before... but I was looking for more in that amusing-tales-of-wife-and-motherhood line, of which E.M. Delafield's Provincial Lady will always be the doyenne, and so read Kerr's Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1957).

It's very fun.  It isn't as good as Delafield or Jackson, in my opinion - perhaps because there is less attempt at an overall structure.  Although all three authors were initially serialised, it's most obvious with Kerr - and her book is really one-note: the exasperated wife and mother.  This sort of thing: 'You take Christopher - and you may; he's a slightly used eight-year-old.'  That is more or less what I was looking for, of course, and she is rather brilliant on that one-note - it's just not going to enter my pantheon of greats.  It was turned into a 1960 film with Doris Day, and later a TV series with Pat Crowley, although I can't imagine how.

Oh, I forgot, there was one piece which slid onto a very different topic - 'Touours tristesse' was a rather amusing pastiche of Francoise Sagan.

I'll leave you with an example.  I realise I've been very brief about Please Don't Eat The Daisies, but, to be honest, I'm pretty sure you'll know whether or not you'll want to read this based on the title and concept alone...   (Oh, and bear in mind, when you read the word 'pants', that this is an American book.)

Another distressing aspect of disciplining young children is that somehow you are always left with the flat end of the dialogue - a straight man forever.  It's not just that you feel idiotic.  The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.  Let's say you hear a loud, horrifying crash from the bedroom, so you shout up:

"In heaven's name, what was that?"


"That awful noise."

"What noise?"

"You didn't hear that noise?"

"No.  Did you?"

"Of course I did - I just told you."

"What did it sound like?"

"Never mind what it sounded like.  Just stop it."

"Stop what?"

"Whatever you're doing."

"I'm not doing anything."

"Stop it anyway."

"I'm brushing my teeth.  Shall I stop that?"

Obviously this way madness lies.  Personally, I knew I had to win this battle of dialectics or seek psychiatric care.  I don't promise that my solution will work equally well in all cases, but it does do nicely around here.  Nowadays when I hear that crash I merely call up, clearly and firmly, "Hey you, pick up your pants."

I am, of course, operating on the absolute certainty that whoever it is will have at least one pair of pants on the floor.  And the mere motion of picking them up will distract him, temporarily at least, from whatever mayhem he was involved in.  As far as that crash is concerned, I never really wanted to know what it was.  I just wanted it to stop.

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