Monthly Archives: September 2014

In Ars Dolor: Depressing Stories by an 8-Year-Old

Last week, I introduced you to Diary of My Demented Kid Brother, a repository of my baby brother’s elementary school journal entries that I set up back in 2008.

You’ll be pleased to learn that, in addition to writing spot-on surrealist book reviews, the kid was also a genius at depressing prose. Not a single one of his fourth-grade stories has anything resembling a happy ending. Indeed, most of them end on a note of abject futility. No wonder my parents got called in for a conference with his teacher.

Here are some of my favorites (in order from least to most depressing).

The pencil that smells.

The pencil that smells
Once upon a time there was a pencil named Vern. One day he was playing with his friend they were having a rotten egg war. Vern got hit five thousand times he smelled like rotten eggs. He snuck in his house but his mom could smell him peeeeeyou you smell like rotten eggs. Your gonna hafto take a shower but I hate taking it’s so dark and WET!!! But it’s the only way you’ll get clean. Oh all right so he took a shower and he didn’t smell anymore. So he went back to his friend’s house this time they had a toxic waste and he got hit ten million times he went home but this time it wouldn’t come OFF

Your fourth grade pencil.

pretend your fourth grade pencil talk about your life.
Vern my owner keeps on sharpening so I keep on getting shorter I used to be seven point five now I’m three point five talk about short. Every day he uses me I get so tired of arrrrgh! But when they go home I just sit in his pencil box and sleep but he wakes me up nine 0’clock in the morning. Now I’m lost I don’t know where I am but I think the janitor threw me away if so I’m probably crushed right now let me rest in peace.

The giant baby that went down the Mississippi.

The Baby that went down the MIssippi River
One day a women called Mrs. Johnson had and she called him Baby Bob but the baby weighed so much they couldn’t carry him so they. Asked if the nurse could get some help but unfortunately. They couldn’t get him out the door so they sat down and thinked. But no one thought of anything so they had to get a canoe and put. Him in it and he would hafto go down the Missipi river. So they did and waved good bye till he disapeard into the Fog. Now since baby bob all alone he was hungry so he picked. Some berries along the way and then he was tired so he took a nap for. About five hours and woke up and he was at the mouth but the boat couldn’t hold his weight.

The Bee Keeper.

The Bee Keeper
once there was man that had a lot pride in his bees but one. Day he put his hand in it but he forgot to put on his safety gear. So he got stinged very badly so he had to go to the hospital. When he woke up they asked what happen? Well I pinched my nose to long and passed out. He felt really bad that he lied and he really wanted to get out. Of the hospital so he tried opening a window but that didn’t work so he asked. The guard if he could go and the gaurd said no then he felt something right. Where his heart was so he just layed down and died.

The end


Kid Critic: Book Reviews by an 8-Year-Old

Many, many moons ago, I discovered my little brother’s old school journals in a box in my basement. The entries contained therein were so surreal that I cataloged my favorites at my very first blog, Diary of My Demented Kid Brother. Now that my brother has passed, I’m thankful I made the effort.

It wouldn’t do to forget how stunningly strange he was.

For a taste of his second-grade literary stylings, feast your eyes on these book reviews. The last one is my favorite–I think most of my readers will agree that it has a certain eerie appeal.

Open Wide, Look Inside
Open WIDE, by Robin Mitchell

Open wide, look inside.
How many there? None.
Open wide. Look inside.
How many. Two crazy pigs.

A Goofy Movie
A Goofy Movie, by Francine Hughes

“Whoah!” Inside Goofy and Max tumbled all about. Suddenly, Bigfoot stopped. He leaped off the car. He began to nose around their camping gear.
A few days later Max and Goofy drove back to their hometown. First stop: Roxanne’s house. Max! Roxanne cried running to the door. I Saw you on tv. I think why someone should read this book is because it’s good and funny

Cam Jansen and the Triceratops Pop Mystery
Cam Jansen and the Triceratops Pop Mystery, by David A. Adler

Chapter one who would steel triceratops pops?
Honk! Honk! a clown sitting on a huge tricycle honked his horn. then he handed Eric Shelton a flyer. “thank you,” Eric said. Someone dressed in a large frog costume handed him another flyer. I think why some one should read this book is they have good mysteries

Charlotte's Web
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

don’t hear song
don’t see birds
don’t hear a rainbow
don’t hear about wibur’s birthday
don’t hear papa
there’s a ghost in my bed
don’t hear about scarecrow
doesn’t the duck go’s in there but they take him out

My Top 10 Most Personally Influential Books

There’s a meme going around Facebook at the moment; you’ve probably seen it. It asks you to list the 10 books that influenced you the most as a person, be they works of great literature or vintage collections of erotic poetry  you once found under your grandmother’s bed. I resisted this meme for a while because it seemed self-indulgent–who honestly cares which books have influenced me? What a stupid question.

The more I thought about it, though, the more it didn’t seem stupid at all. Try and make a list in your head real quick: there are books you love and books you hate and books you pretend to love and/or hate because that’s what’s fashionable, but which ten books have legitimately affected your life? How many of them are books you read for a class, and how many are random nonsense you stumbled across when you were bored one day? How strongly did they influence you, and in what ways? It’s actually a fairly fascinating exercise! That’s why I decided to try it.

Plus I run a website called, which means the Self-Indulgence Train pulled out of the station ages ago.

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Kerrytown BookFest Redux: Nineteenth-Century Etchings

One of the stalls at BookFest was selling prints of old metal etchings, the subject matter of which ranged from gorgeous to silly to prosaic to outlandish. Here are a few of my favorites. [As always, click to make stupid-big!]

"Reading Lessons" etching.

“Reading Lessons”

The cardinal rule of reading as presented in this image seems to be “shut the f*ck up.” Though I’d argue that “look at the thing you’re reading” is an even more elementary lesson, and one this little girl could greatly benefit from.

"Baby Kiss" etching.

This was called something like “Baby’s First Kiss,” which is cute and all, but look at the expression on that poor baby’s face. You can tell he or she didn’t consent to this. They oughta call it “Baby’s First Sexual Assault.”

"Consolation" etching.


 I like this one because the lady who’s kneeling is supposed to be “consoling” the one who’s lying down, but it looks like they’re about three seconds from making out. Which is a terrific form of consolation, if you think about it!

"Eastern Woman" etching.

This one is just beautiful in real life–the woman’s jewelry and peacock feathers are tinted gold and blue, which are the only colors in the entire piece. Cell phone cameras can’t capture it and I’m too poor to buy it, but if you’d like to see this (or any of the others) in real life, I imagine they’re still available for sale at Out of the Way Books in North Adams, Michigan. 

Guns, Sex Pots, and Falling Trees: A Day at the Kerrytown BookFest

A tree fell on a car at the Kerrytown BookFest.

I’m going to lead with the tree, since that’s probably the most conventionally thrilling thing that happened at Kerrytown BookFest 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The BookFest, for those not in the know (i.e. anyone outside Southeast Michigan and/or in possession of a sex life that doesn’t involve sniffing old paper), is an annual event celebrating books and readers. In the words of its organizers, it features

authors, storytellers, publishers bookbinders, book artists, book illustrators, poets, letterpress printers, wood engravers, calligraphers, papermakers, librarians, teachers, publishers, new, used, and antiquarian booksellers and many others associated with books and their diverse forms, structure, and content.

So it’s Heaven, basically. Apart from the falling trees.

I want to make it clear that this tree fell on this Jeep in the middle of a sunny, windless afternoon. I talked to the woman on whose property the tree had fallen and found her surprisingly laid-back about the whole thing.

“Ah, well,” she said. “Hopefully insurance will cover it.”

Gosh, I thought. She’s taking this rather well.

Come to find out it wasn’t actually her Jeep; someone had just parked it in front of her house. Imagine the noise that person made when they returned from the BookFest to find their car playing not-so-Power Bottom to an oak! Truly, it must have been the Sound of Ultimate Suffering.

Anyway, now that we’ve got the tree out of the way, let’s delve into some of the things I saw in Kerrytown.

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Puberty Books of the Damned: Butt-Walking Edition

Personal fitness can be a sensitive issue. In today’s hypertensive society, it’s more important than ever to teach young people about nutrition and exercise; but how do you prevent that instruction from shading into fat-shaming?

The authors of TEEN WORKS grappled with that very issue in the 1980’s. As is their wont, they farted out the worst, pants-on-head craziest solution ever.

No Butts About It

The woman in the fetching purple leotard is Tamilee Webb, a “fitness expert” whose expertise consists mainly of trolling teenage girls by getting them to do the stupidest exercises imaginable. When we first meet Tamilee, she highlights the singular dissatisfaction most girls feel with their butts.

In a recent survey, teen girls were asked which part of their anatomy they would most like to change. Among the top three was buttocks.

Butts was in the top three, you guys! That means butts earned at least a bronze in the Body Shame Olympics. Way to go, butts! Of course, there was stiff competition.

Many girls who are otherwise satisfied with their figures complain that their hips are too large or bulge in the wrong spots.

Move over, butts. Hips are here to knock you off your pedestal.

But wait–a challenger appears!

When asked which part of their body needs the most toning and shaping, girls often say their waist or thighs.

Whew! There sure are a lot of body parts vying for the title of Most Loathed. Hence the original title of this section of the book: Fitness! Why Every Part of You is the Worst Part!

For my part, I’m sticking with butts. If only because the page on butts contains the following phrase.

Many girls think their fannies are too large, too wobbly, or too lumpy.

The American in me sees nothing funny about this sentence. The Anglophile in me is laughing hard enough to bust a hiatal hernia.

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