Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Literary Offenses of Walter R. Brooks



In "Freddy Goes to the North Pole," the second book in the Freddy the Pig series, the farm animals set out for the North Pole with their phaeton, but apparently abandon it on an iceberg. In later books, it reappears at the Bean Farm. How did it get back?

Farmer Bean repeatedly adopts orphans who are never mentioned again in subsequent books. What happens to them? Ella and Everett are forgotten after "The Clockwork Twin." Byram and Adoniram vanish after "Wiggins for President." The animals spend some time in "Freddy and the Popinjay" waxing nostalgic over the days when those fine lads Byram and Adoniram walked among them, while giving no clue as to their eventual fate. When Ella and Everett disappeared from the series, they left not a wrack behind. Adoniram, however, left his bathing trunks.

Why do inchworms delight Mr. Pomeroy in Chapter 1 of "Freddy Goes Camping" and make him sick in Chapter 9 of "Freddy and the Spaceship"?

In "Freddy and the Men from Mars," onions are anathema to the rats, so why, in "Freddy and the Ignormus," did they send a squirrel to steal onions?



In "Freddy and the Dragon," when Percy is describing the gang on p. 161, he says there are "three pigs--they're so tough and badly brought up I don't think they've even got any names." But when he meets them on 217, he greets the two pigs familiarly as Eddie and Pete. Are there three nameless pigs or two pigs named Eddie and Pete?

What can explain Mrs. Bingle’s sea change of personality between "Freddy and the Ignormus" (in which she is Freddy’s devoted and generous supporter) and "Freddy and the Dragon" (in which she is entirely hateful)? I can only assume that the once gay and carefree Mrs. Bingle was traumatized when, in "Freddy the Cowboy," Mrs. Peppercorn threw the mop at her window. Mrs. Bingle must thenceforward have become disenchanted with life. She may also have harbored resentment over Mrs. Peppercorn’s purloining of her "character tag," the spectacles incident. Left with an undefined personality, perhaps ill temper rushed in to fill the void? Or, did Brooks simply forget who was who?

How did this "Freddy and the Dragon" sentence pass the editor? "Jack was expecting a friend named Gimpy Jones because he limped."

"Freddy the Pilot," Chapter 8: "Madame Delphine didn't like the new trailer as well as the wagon in which she had crossed the country a dozen times; she said it wasn't homey. But the wagon had finally fallen to pieces..." But in "Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans," Chapter 13, "In the Bean barn, there was an old-fashioned gypsy caravan--sort of a small house on wheels--that Madame Delphine, the fortune-teller with Mr. Boomshmidt's circus, had lived in for several years on the road, until Mr. Boomschmidt had bought her a trailer." If the wagon had fallen to pieces, how did it end up, perfectly intact, in the Bean barn? We need a "magic vehicle" theory to account for the phaeton (abandoned on a melting iceberg) and the gypsy wagon (fell to pieces) both appearing in the barn.

The A.B.I. is usually the Animal Bureau of Investigation (e.g. "Freddy and the Men from Mars," Chapter 19), but in "Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans," Chapter 2, it is the Animal Bureau of Intelligence.

In Chapter 7 of "Freddy and the Space Ship," Mrs. Peppercorn wants to remove her helmet. Freddy remembers that "she couldn’t get the helmet off by herself anyway, since all the helmets were fastened by nuts, which had to be screwed down from the outside." But, in Chapter 11, when Mr. Bean asks Freddy to remove his helmet, "Freddy unscrewed the locks that locked the helmet, then lifted it off...." Is it possible to remove your own helmet or isn’t it?

Are Red, Red Mike, and Bloody Mike the same person? How about the various Looeys? Are the doctors Wintersip, Winterbottom, and Winterpool one doctor, tripled by Brooksian confusion?

In "Freddy and the Ignormus," the windows are described as boarded up, but not so portrayed in the drawings. And! For Gosh Sake! There is a discrepancy between the seating arrangements at Mr. Camphor's as described and as drawn in "Freddy Goes Camping"!

The picture at the head of "Freddy Rides Again," Chapter 2, shows Freddy, Jinx, and a cow, presumably Mrs. Wiggins, passing through the Margarine gateway, but the text makes it clear that only Freddy and Jinx are present: "The two friends went through the tall iron gates....”

In Chapter 1 of "Freddy the Magician," Leo’s mane is matted with burrs, and clipping it is discussed. But Wiese apparently read carelessly, as, in the illustration, Leo’s head is already denuded.

In Chapter 6 of "Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans," Freddy disguises himself as a farmer, but in the illustration, Freddy is still wearing his cowboy outfit. Contradictory pictures are so legion as to be hardly worth pointing out. Kurt Wiese seems to have read as carelessly as Brooks wrote.



"But Mr. Webb was a courageous insect..." ("Freddy and the Ignormus," Chapter 10) Is anyone else annoyed by the contention that spiders are insects?

In "Freddy and the Space Ship," the space ship will reach Mars in "about a week" (Chapter 5). But when they leave, "The earth was behind them and so was the sun; Mars was still on the other side of the sun, swinging around in its orbit towards the spot where they planned to meet it." Apparently, they expect Mars to complete half of its orbit in a week. As the orbit of Mars is 1.88 years, they haven’t a chance of hitting it. When they accidentally turn the ship around, wouldn’t somebody notice, if nothing else, that they are heading back toward the Sun, rather than away from it? Of course, Brooks is not a science fiction writer.



Here is my comprehensive study of the "revolving henhouse door" mystery. In "Freddy the Detective" (1932), Henrietta "slams" the henhouse door. A revolving door does not slam, so it has not yet been installed. The accompanying picture bears out this conclusion. In "Wiggins for President" (1939), the woodpeckers promise to install revolving doors, but, of course, never do so. In "Freddy's Cousin Weedly" (1940), the henhouse door "flew open," which doesn't sound like the action of a revolving door. In "Freddy and the Bean Home News" (1943), Mr. Bean installed the revolving door after the animals came back from Florida (1927). In "Freddy the Magician" (1947), the henhouse has "little revolving doors." In "Freddy Rides Again" (1951), the henhouse has "an unusual feature, a revolving door." In "Freddy and the Men from Mars" (1954), the revolving doors were installed "last year." More research is necessary, but we can confidently state that Mr. Bean installed the revolving door (or doors) after the animals came back from Florida (1927); that it had not yet been installed in 1932, nor yet in 1939, nor in 1940; that it was there by 1947 and still around in 1951; and that in 1954, it had been installed "last year." Not merely the chronology, but the purpose of the revolving door is in doubt. When "Henrietta had complained of the cold, Mr. Bean had had the door put in," according to "Freddy Rides Again." But, in "Wiggins for President," Henrietta wants the revolving door to stop the chickens from "pushing and bumping into one another."

It seems hardly worth pointing out that Brooks implies in chapter 12 of "Freddy the Magician" that Minx is a black cat with a white chest and forepaws, while in "Freddy and the Ignormus" she is drawn as a white cat with black spots along her back and the top of her head.

Here is a curious skunk discrepancy. In "Freddy Goes Camping," Chapter 14, we read, "And Sniffy Wilson's daughter, Aroma, who had not been in the fight at all, had fainted away from excitement." In the subsequent "Freddy the Pilot," Chapter 9, though, "Out of the stable came Sniffy Wilson and his wife, Aroma, followed by their seven oldest children." When exactly did Sniffy's daughter become his wife? Perhaps it would be better for everybody if we assume that one of the daughters was named for the mother.

In "Freddy the Cowboy," Freddy and Mrs. Bean try to figure out who sent the threatening letter. They assume that the culprit must be someone who was in the house today, and by process of elimination, arrive at Jinx. However, as the letter was written five days earlier, what difference does it make who was in the house today? Freddy and Mrs. Bean are certainly working from a false premise, although their conclusion was luckily correct. We can blame the faulty reasoning on Freddy, as Mrs. Bean seems not to have been told when the letter arrived, and Freddy seems not to have questioned her assumption that it was written on that day. I'm more inclined to think Brooks had forgotten, after several pages, just when the letter was written. I know, we've gotten past the major problems and we're nitpicking.

5 comments:

  1. Somehow I expect that Mr. Brooks did not imagine, between frequent draughts of bourbon, that his works would be studied so assiduously in the year 2012 AD.

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  2. I've only scratched the surface here!

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  3. The best Freddy books ("Wiggins for President," "Freddy and the Ignormus," "Freddy and the Bean Home News") are delightful. The lesser ones are marred by careless writing, incoherent science, terrible poetry, and ineffective red-baiting. Kurt Wiese's illustrations are always good.

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  4. Some of those old childrens' books are great Edward... I wonder if CAD is familiar with Freddy the Pig?

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  5. Though I'll always love Brooks for "Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons," this post is fantastic.

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