North Point, 2002 (2001)
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Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
bout forty years ago, a number of essays were published, purporting to be the last word in literary criticism of a famous and deservedly popular masterpiece - the poems and tales written by A. A. Milne about
Winnie the Pooh
and his friends. These essays were written by decidedly prolix academics from the ivy-covered fastnesses of English Literature, parodying esoteric and barely comprehensible theories. Thus it was to the astonishment of everyone (including its instigator Frederick Crews) that
The Pooh Perplex
became a best seller.
oday, equally surprisingly and due largely to the efforts of Disney, Pooh Bear and his companions in the Hundred Acre Wood have not lost their popularity. At the December 2000 Modern Languages Association convention, a panel was convened with impetus from Princeton professor N. Mack Hobbs. On it sat a number of the notables of contemporary criticism, who brought the amiable but bumbling bear academically up to date. Hence this book,
Post Modern Pooh
. Let me say up front that I enjoyed reading it immensely, but that to achieve that happy result I skipped lightly over, I would estimate, about five words out of every ten. Unless you are a Professor of Literature yourself, or a graduate student manfully striving to become one of that exalted ilk, you should anticipate a similar necessity.
et me give you an example: '
An interval must separate the present from what it is not in order for the present to be itself, but this interval that constitutes it as present must, by the same token, divide the present in and of itself, thereby also dividing, along with the present, everything that is thought on the basis of the present, that is, in our metaphysical language, every being, and singularly substance or the subject
.' This, unfortunately, is not parody but a quotation from an authority in the field, and there are many such. A further warning; be careful into whose hands the book might fall. The passing of forty years has apparently liberated our academics to speculate lasciviously on the sexual irregularities of Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore and even Tigger and Roo, not excluding Christopher Robin and A. A. Milne himself.
must admit that a discussion of how Pooh managed to survive for a week stuck in Rabbit's door after gorging on honey and condensed milk without explosive consequences is hilarious, but not at all bedtime reading for the kiddies, assuming they could understand a word of it. '
Nevertheless, it seems clear enough that Pooh's predicament is constipation on a truly Rabelaisian scale.The stern-facing Rabbit would be ideally suited to apply a remedy if he happened to have an enema kit in his cupboard
.' But '
there are disincentives to his taking too hasty an approach to reactivating Pooh's colonic contractions
.' I also enjoyed very much feminist Professor Sisera Catheter's analysis of Kanga, '
As for Kanga, --- what do you make of this line from an early draft of the book: "Every Tuesday Kanga spent the day with HIS great friend Pooh"? You can actually see, from a Shepherd illustration, Pooh's alarm at the moment he spots Kanga's "pouch" and realises that his "great friend" is no longer one of the gang. It's a scene straight out of "Boys Don't Cry"
is certainly not a book for all tastes, but if you are a Pooh addict you will find a great deal to enjoy. And if you have any interest in what is being taught in today's university Literature courses, read it and weep.
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