TBT: Bev, Blume, and Braham

This morning's conversation went some thing like this.

"Hey Babe, whaddaya think . . . Lincoln's birthday or the birthday of Judy Blume for today's Throwback Thursday?

Well . . . Lincoln was president.

Totally . . . he's gonna get enough accolades today.

No . . . I kinda meant he was a bit more important.

But not nearly as funny."

Which is actually a bit wrong. Lincoln was much funnier than Judy Blume. And without Lincoln there would be an entire generation of children who didn't know that a 'Score' is twenty years. Without Blume, well, then we wouldn't know that teenage girls had questions.

So I go to Blume's wikipedia page and I found something interesting. Aside from the alliterative pun of "Lion Eyes", or the dramatic result of Yaweh's punishment to the female form in "Are You There God . . . " and of course the existential Nietzschean brilliance of "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing." I really didn't recognize most of Blume's oeuvre.

And then I realized I had been mistaking her for Beverly Clearly. An author who's books I was intimately more familiar with. And who . . . BTW . . . is still alive and kicking just outside of Portland Oregon.

So now I've got a problem. I wanted to do a whole thing about the birth of young adult fiction back during a time when it was Dick and Jane to Dickinson with very little in between. But that was clearly Cleary's story and not the story of today's birthday girl.

Blume did break the bodily function barrier, so hat's off there. And she did rattle a whole bunch of conservative librarians, a group I'm sure you agree, needs to be rattled at least three or four times per generation. There's far more debauchery in the Judeo-Christian Bible than anything Blume could conceive of. It even makes E.L. James look like a prude.

So I could do something on Mr. Lincoln, who, unlike most conservative librarians, was intimately familiar with the Bible and had memorized most of it as a young child.

He would have known that his first name, Abraham, was taken from one of the Genesis characters. You probably know the story about God making a bet with an angel that he could convince Abraham to kill his son Isaac but the angel chickened out at the last minute cause Abraham was just nuts enough to do it.

If you don't remember that story, well, then you probably know Isaac as the grandfather of Dinah in "The Red Tent."

Statutory rape, genital mutilation, and genocide. That's only the beginning of the fun.

Anyway, back to Lincoln . . . we're all pretty familiar with him. The man who freed the slaves and saved the union. The man who's mother died when he was young, who's children died when they were young, a man who's wife was a little crazy (not Abraham crazy, but you know, off). There's good stuff in there about honesty and rail splitting and stove pipe hats and if you want to read a really good book about him "Team of Rivals" is a must own.

But it always gets me when I read the work of people more familiar with him, that he was almost above all else, a master story teller. Not just tales from the bible, but of history and humor. He collected jokes by the thousands and always had something pithy and engaging for every social situation from entertaining dignitaries to entertaining the troops.

He was humble and self-effacing, he spoke with candor and was very very funny.

A shame that someone like that can't exist in the political arena as it stands today, with so much bread to butter and no time for the main course.

But if there is a theme for today (and it's certainly not politics) it's that story-tellers play a vastly more important role in the defining of humanity than they are normally given credit for. Yeah, maybe Blume wouldn't be the kind of person that pens the "Gettysburg Address" on a dinner napkin, but every girl born after 1970 knows who Margret is and has been grateful ever since for the introduction.

Stories move us, shape us, define us, bring us together and the only time they push us apart is when someone refuses to listen.

So it doesn't matter who's birthday you'd like to consider today, just as long as it isn't Beverly Clearly.

But that's only because today is not her day.

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