Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deconstructing "Go Dog. Go!"


This was a flash exercise from 2002 that took place in a private room on Zoetrope.  Ms. Parker is the inimitable editor of FRiGG magazine.  I don't remember anymore who wrote what, if we traded off, or if I wrote the entire thing based on her prompt.  It's a lark, and perfect not only to close out the holiday season, but a dogged decade. Happy Holidays!



ZAFA LIT 469: Deconstructing "Go, Dog. Go!"
Lecture No. 1

Ms. Parker (claps hands): All right, class! Quiet! Hey! This course is called "Deconstructing ‘Go, Dog. Go.'" In it we examine the text and illustrations of the eponymous children’s book. Does everyone know what the word "eponymous" means?

Sandra: My mom says boys have penys.  She didn’t say they were a mess, though.

Ms. Parker: Wrong. Anyway, those of you who think this is Remedial Sex Ed 069 should get out now, OK? (Most of the class rises and leaves.) Good-by! Excuse me. You in the back there. (Looks at her seating chart.) Steve, is it? I think I’ll call you Little Stevie. Quit horsing around, Little Stevie, please. Put that away. I’ll see you in my office immediately. (She and Little Stevie leave but they come back shortly. Little Stevie looks spent.) Anybody else? (The class cowers.)

Sandra: (Passes note to friend across the aisle) Do you think she used a ruler on Little Stevie?
    (Friend passes note back) He sat down okay, but Ms. Parker’s walking kinda funny.

Ms. Parker: All righty, then. Let’s start with a short bio of the author, P.D. Eastman. (She reads from a printout from Amazon.com.) "Mr. Eastman authored, co-authored, and illustrated many children's books. He was born in 1909 and died in 1986. He even produced some films, and worked for Warner Brothers and Disney studios. He helped develop the Dr. Seuss ‘Gerald McBoing Boing’ series with Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), when he worked for the animation studio United Productions of America." Does this mean anything to any of you?

Sandra: Was he that nasty-looking old man on the Werther’s candy commercial?

Ms. Parker: Oh, Sandra, I’ve heard you met Mr. Eastman. Can you tell us about this?

Sandra:    He offered me candy.  Sure he was a stranger, but I thought I’d seen him on T.V.  Now I can’t get the taste out of my mouth.

Ms. Parker: Thanks for sharing. Now, I want to give you some background on Dr. Seuss as well. By the way, "authored" means the same thing as "wrote." (Ms. Parker reads from the printout.) "Back in 1957, Theodor Geisel responded to an article in Life magazine that lamented the use of boring reading primers in schools. Using the pseudonym of "Dr. Seuss" (Seuss was Geisel's middle name) and only 223 words, Geisel created a replacement for those dull primers: ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ The instant success of the book prompted Geisel and his wife to found Beginner Books, and Geisel wrote many popular books in this series, including ‘Hop on Pop,’ ‘Fox in Socks,’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ Other favorite titles in this series are ‘Go, Dog, Go!’ (sic; they did the punctuation wrong) and ‘Are You My Mother?’ by P. D. Eastman, ‘A Fly Went By,’ by Mike McClintock, and ‘Put Me in the Zoo,’ by Robert Lopshire. These affordable hardcover books combine large print, easy vocabulary, and large, bright illustrations in stories kids will want to read again and again. Grade 1 - Grade 2."

Sandra: Were those on the summer reading list?  ‘Cause I never got that list, and it’s not fair testing us on them.

Ms. Parker: Uh huh. Today we would like to examine three issues in "Go, Dog. Go!" Everyone get out your texts. (No one does.)

Sandra: (pulls out Cliff’s Notes for Go, Dog.  Go!)

Ms. Parker: Well, forget it then. I’ll read the book to you. (She does. See the following.)

(Ms. Parker sighs.) Wasn’t that good? (She lights a cigarette.)

Sandra: (Waves smoke away) I resent the female dog’s obsequious solicitation of male dog approval.

Ms. Parker: First, I want to talk about the hat thing. In four separate instances, the red girl poodle, who is wearing a different hat each time, asks the yellow-with-black-spots boy spaniel whether he likes her hat. Get out your texts, please. (No one does.)

Sandra: The hat is like a tunnel.  The male’s approval is like a train entering the tunnel.  Dark and mysterious things happen in there.

Ms. Parker: Fine, then. I'll describe the friggin' pictures to you. On page…hey! There are no goddamn page numbers here! Who edited this book? On page approximately 6, we see her first hat. Why don't you describe it for us, Sandra.

Sandra: It has flowers.  Obvious labial imagery.

Ms. Parker: What page are you on? It’s a simple, blue, bolero-type hat with a yellow daisy on the top. OK, it’s not that great a hat. But clearly she is delighted with it. She asks him if he likes it. He goes all snooty and tells her, "I do not." Why does he do this? She just wants a little affirmation about her hat. I mean, couldn’t he have lied?

Sandra: He could not.  To lie, he would not.  He could not, would not tell a lie.

Ms. Parker: I want to mention, on the next page, following this encounter, approximately page 8 in your text…

Sandra: A hat is never just a hat.

Ms. Parker: …approximately page 8 in your text, we have a blue poodle (who looks like the hat-girl poodle only now she’s blue; perhaps a dye job?) is going into a maze made out of cleverly trimmed hedges—remember the scene in "The Shining" where they’re in the maze? It’s like that only it’s not snowing—and she’s looking like she’s in a trance, if you want to know the truth; do you think she’s been slipped a mickey?—and there are three red male-looking spaniels going out of the maze and they look freaked out, frankly, like they’ve seen some very odd shit or perhaps some odd shit was done to them. Little Stevie, what do we make of this?

Little Stevie:   Is this like hidden pictures?  I see a ruler in the hedge.

Ms. Parker: Next hat encounter. This time she’s wearing a nice, blue, wide-brimmed hat, something Scarlett O’Hara would wear or in this case Scarlett O’Hairy, topped with a dramatic pink plume. Once again, she seems awfully pleased with her hat and she asks the guy if he likes it and again he cops an attitude and tells her he "does not like it." Cad! Shall we mention that this time he’s wearing a hat, a black bowler thing and it’s plenty dorky all right, but does she say anything? Also, as he’s scooting away (they’re both on scooters) he’s waving her feather. The fucker took her feather!

Sandra: Cross-dressing bastard!

Ms. Parker: Next hat is a ski hat. It’s the cutest yet! It’s yellow with white fur around the head and a red pom-pom at the end. It’s very long—so long that it’s pleated accordion-style so that it won’t extend all the way down the mountain. Come on, that is one fabulous hat! But, can you guess? It’s a "no go" with Monsieur le Critique duh Chapeau. And look what hat he’s wearing! What, does he think he’s Santa? Hel-lo! You’re not even Rudolph! You’re a dog!

Sandra: Do these dogs live in West Hollywood?

Ms. Parker: Plus, this time she’s pissed. She’s racing down the mountain—away from him ASAP!—and she’s like, Good-by! (ya little cur) and she’s giving him the evil eye and hoping he’ll bark up the wrong tree and then smash into it.

Sandra:   Outrageous fashion sense, snitfits at the drop of a hat.  Oh, yes, they have to be drag queens.

Ms. Parker: Now! The hat climax! This is during the dog party. Now she’s wearing one superduper stu-fucking-pendous gorgeous chapeau cree-ay-shun that’s got all manner of stuff hanging from it on fishing poles: spiders and fish and mice and birds, etc. Plus, there’s a big bone and candy canes and a pinwheel and lollipops and a big ol’ flowerpot at the top with a pink daisy in it!

Sandra: Yes!  Yes!  I remember that hat.  A perfect doggy dream of a hat.  I betcha she whimpered in her sleep, and twitched her back leg chasing that design.

Ms. Parker: And--well, well!--Mister "I Do Not Like That Hat" finally likes her hat! But look at his party hat! Can we? It’s a newspaper hat he folded! Lame!

Sandra: He’s utterly trying to curry favor.  Does she work in the industry?

Ms. Parker: And then, goddamn it, on the last page she goes off with him in his car. As if all was forgiven! Bitch, have you no pride? The dog won’t give you a fucking inch until you bust your poodle-butt staying up all night to create this heavenly millinery masterpiece, and, look at him, he shows up with a hat he folded from the goddamn sports section and he drops you this one little teeny compliment and you toss away all your good sense and run off into the sunset with him? In his spiffy little red car? Explain this to me!

Sandra: Well, life is short, and the red car is cute.

Ms. Parker (miffed): That’s just plain poppycock! This class is over! I’m outta here. Where’s the snack machine? Everybody come back tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be well. Tomorrow we’ll talk about punctuation, specifically exclamation points versus periods. And I don’t want to hear anything out of (she points) you or you or...you.

Sandra: Do we get extra credit for not talking?

Ms. Parker: Good-by!

(Your Name): Good-by!

ZAFA LIT 469: Deconstructing "Go,Dog. Go!" will resume tomorrow (that is, Tuesday) when Ms. Parker has recovered her good cheer.