Wednesday, February 09, 2011

BOOK REPORT: Mike's Mystery

Begin, as we always begin, with the cover.

 Henry is HUNG, maybe in a bad way

That dog is peeing from his FRONT

Violet's foot continues to be Impossible, 
and it looks like Benny's hand is so fucked up 
because his own brother is his father


At last the mystery of the Boxcar deformities is solved! I mean, that's the real mystery here, right? Fuck the Pet Shop Mystery and the Dinosaur Mystery and the Ferris Wheel Mystery and the supremely lame-named MIKE'S MYSTERY that we turn our attention to today, the real mystery here is how did the Boxcar Children knit together so wrong in the womb of their author, one Gertrude Chandler Warner? BECAUSE:
Jessie nodded at her older brother. "Yes, we will get off at Yellow Sands now. I think that is a beautiful name. Our uranium fields looked just like yellow sand."
MYSTERY SOLVED. Of course the Boxcar Children own a uranium mine. OF COURSE THEY DO.

 Those aren't fingers

 That's...not a nose

One question is answered, other questions are raised. We're on Book 5 now, and summer after summer has passed, and the children are no older, and still wherever they go follows Mystery. What is so different about the pink flesh of the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys that it attracts such mystery to it? Are they lit from within, are they lamps set out for it?

Allow me to summarize. So far as I can tell, this mystery is about a fire, a dog, a uranium mine, and a woman who compulsively bakes pies. Repeat: a fire, a dog, a uranium mine, and a woman who compulsively bakes pies. That's like...the four classic elements of a Mystery right there. If I ever read a Mystery that didn't contain at least one of those things I would set it on fire with the very fire it did not contain, I would hurl it to the next Retriever who passed my way, I would spill my uranium and deform it for life, I would chew and swallow each page one by one and think blueberry, cherry, blackberry, apple. THIS JUST GOT EPIC.

Now you're probably wondering, who the fuck is Mike? I read the book and I don't even know. All that seems clear is that Mike is a playmate, a special playmate for our boy Benny, conceived in the hot fevered mind of Gertrude Chandler Warner to be his perfect foil.
"Benny is a great talker. He's a fine boy. It does Mike good to play with him." 
"It does Ben good to play with me," said Mike loudly.
"Oh, Aunt Jane, thank you!" said Jessie. "You are very kind. But I don't think you want Mike. He would upset everything." 
"I don't mind being upset," said Aunt Jane. "Benny and Mike would be something amusing to watch."
"You can say that again!" said Henry, laughing.
"I ate an egg," said Benny. "Can I go now?"
Classic Benny. Classic, sexy Benny. I ate an egg. Can I go now? Not till this book is over, my sweet. Not till you solve...Mike's Mystery. Mike owns the dog, the fire burns down the house of Mike, the pies are baked by the mother of Mike, Mike owns the mystery, and Benny is seized with a passion to solve it. Consumed by forbidden love for each other, Benny and Mike fight constantly.
The man looked at the four of them. "I wish I had as many good friends as you have, Mike," he said. He looked at Benny. "This one here is a wonderful friend."
 "He don't always stand up for me," said Mike.
"Doesn't," said Benny. 
"Now look here, Ben!" said Mike. "Don't start that again!"
So you get to call him Ben, do you, Mike? You and you alone call him Ben. It is Love. But in the permanent year 1960, heterosexism reigns, and now we must return to talk of pie. Talk of your mother's pie, Mike.
"My mother likes to make pies the best," said Mike. "On pies she is a wizard." 
The next fifteen pages were like a gift to me, a gift set directly on my lap, where a hot pie sits always and never cools. Behold:
"We've thought of a good job for her, said Mike. "She loves to make pies. So why not make pies and sell them? She gives away millions of pies." 
"Now, Mike," said Benny. "Mr Carter won't believe you, if you say millions." 
"Well, dozens, then," said Mike. 
"Good for you, Mike," said Mr. Carter laughing. "I do believe you, for I have eaten many of those pies myself."
This is what a man
who eats so many pies looks like

"I'd never be tired of making pies, my dear!" cried Mrs. Wood. "I love to mix them up, and roll them out, and fill them with cherries, apples, peaches, or blueberries. And best of all I like to see people eat them." 
A man behind them said, "I'd rather eat them than watch other people eat them." Everyone turned around. 
"Hm-m, I think the men will want so many pies, that one woman can't make enough." 
"Maybe you'll tell the men about the pies?" said Henry. 
"Tell them? I won't need to. The minute they see a sign here saying PIES they will all come over." 
"Sign?" cried Benny. "Did you say a sign? I'll tell you a good sign. Mike's Mother's Place!" 
"Wonderful!" said Jessie. "And what a wonderful name for this place!"
Jessie is clearly of the "everyone gets a medal" school. There is a certain cruelty to her eagerness to assure Benny that he is participating successfully in the world when we can see so plainly that he isn't. That he never can. And meanwhile Benny, whose heart ten pages ago belonged to Mike, is now developing...exotic tastes.
The girls soon rolled out more pies. The boys opened another can of cherries. It was lucky they did so. When the whistle blew at noon, the men came pouring out of the mine. They saw the new sign, and they all wanted hot pies. Soon all the pies were sold. 
"We haven't any left for us," said Mike sadly. 
"Yes, Mike, I saved one pie," said his mother. "It was burned a little." 
"I like pie burned a little," said Benny.
Italics mine. All italics in the world are mine. I like pie burned a little, said Benny. I like pie burned a little, said Benny. I LIKE PIE BURNED A LITTLE, SAID BENNY. Well, Benny, I have good news for you: I hear the pies will be burned IN HELL.

 These dogs will be there, in Hell

Whatever. The mystery gets solved. Who even cares. All the pies get made, all the fires get doused, all the dogs are alive, all the uranium soaks into our bones and our blood. It will make the next generation wrong and hideous, and our children they will be called Boxcar.

The fire seemed to start on all sides of the house. 
No lives were lost, not even the dog. He "spoke." 
He was a "dead dog." He shook hands with every-
body. "Well, he is all our dog," said Benny. 
We follow Benny as usual. Benny has the ideas. 
"He can stand on his head forever," said Benny. 
"Now, Benny, not forever." His voice sounded 
funny, upside down. I don't think he is a very good 
man. He looks rough to me. He put his white teeth 
into something, and sat back with it growling. 
If you weren't here, I couldn't eat my breakfast at all. 
Violet laughed softly. "I was going to say the same 
thing about this blueberry." All this talk about nothing. 
You've got to live somewhere. Don't you know have no home? 


beth coyote said...

this way so funny I read it OUT LOUD to my girlfriend. I only ever read lovey poems to my girlfriend when I want something. Thank you so much for your demented genius.

Patricia Lockwood said...


I thought this one would be too weird for people; I mean there's only so far you can take a Boxcar Children book review before people start backing away from you while smiling nervously