Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Watercress Goes With the Ears

I feel a wee bit foolish for thinking I was the only one who had read A.A. Milne's Once on a Time. No I don't; I feel foolish for not having heard of it. Or maybe I feel privileged. It isn't often you are able to accidentally save a precious fairy tale in complete freshness till the time you are twenty-one. I feel there is a moral in that, if you like morals. I knew I was going to like the darling when I searched Amazon for random titles by A.A. Milne, hoping against hope he'd have written something readable besides Winnie-the-Pooh, poetry, and The Red House Mystery. There was Once on a Time. A fairytale...why then, it was bound to be nonsensical!

I am such an easy win for nonsense. Wanting to walk circumspectly in the art of spending rare book money, I clicked "read first few pages" and came to the introduction:
"For whom, then, is the book intended? That is the trouble. Unless I can say, 'For those, young or old, who like the things which I like,' I find it difficult to answer. Is it a children's book? Well, what do we mean by that? Is The Wind in the Willows a children's book? Is Alice in Wonderland? Is Treasure Island? These are masterpieces which we read with pleasure as children, but with how much more pleasure when we are grown-up...I confess that I cannot grapple with these difficult problems. But I am very sure of this: that no one can write a book which children will like, unless he writes it for himself first...but as you can see, I am still finding it difficult to explain just what sort of book it is. Perhaps no explanation is necessary. Read in it what you like; read it to whomever you like; it can only fall into one of the two classes. Either you will enjoy it, or you won't. It is that sort of book."
Milne was such a peach when introducing himself; I've never met a better man for the job. He sold me on Once on a Time just by that passage. I ordered the book, received it, and gobbled it. If you're looking for a fresh, hilarious, sweet fairy-tale not so many people have read, your looking days are probably done. In fact, when I finished it last night, there were so many lovely bits I didn't want to forget, I did a proper bit of Sharpie Therapy to remember them by:

This is not one. This is pretty typography.

You really should read it.

In other news, Fly Away Home debuts in just two days!!! Very soon you shall be able to buy a copy, or maybe even gift one to a person you love. But the point of this post was this: "Please read Once on a Time."

That's all. And if it interests anyone, I share a birthday with Wiggs's Very Good Day. ^.^ (and the title of this post reflects the title of a chapter in the book.


Kendra E. Ardnek said...


Not in actual physical form, though. I stumbled upon a free e-version of it on amazon, sent it to my kindle, and devoured it.

It was delicious, such nonsensical logic! Such unexpected twists!

I can't name favorite lines off the top of my head, but I really enjoyed the two kings pretending to be pig farmers. The poor kings ...

On another note, have you read his play "The Ugly Duckling." It's almost as good. (Possibly better)

Joy said...

I am going to put you in shock. i've never read anything for A. A. Milne. Not even 'Winny the Pooh' (though of course I know it as a kid's cartoon). I'm that sort of 'un-learned' in nonsense stories, but Tolkien is giving me a taste for that sort of thing with his Roverandom, Farmer Giles of Ham, Adventures of Tom Bombadil and that sort of thing.

I probably ought to remedy my 'unlearnedness' of Mr. Milne. He sounds like such a dear fellow!

I am very much looking forward to the publication of Fly Away Home!!!!! ^_^

Rachel Heffington said...

Kendra, I have not read it! Now I really must. You know how I am about A.A. Milne.
Joy: I won't promise you'll like it because I don't think he's really anything at all like Tolkien, but I think you will. His writing stands entirely on its own two feet and I think a break from all things Tolkien will be more refreshing and inspirational than you suppose!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I knew you'd love it. Just thinking about the Cloak of Darkness makes me giggle every time...

If you're looking for more Milne, you must find a copy of The Sunny Side. It's a collection of his short fiction and humorous essays, and it's absolutely delightful. There's a lot of his work free on Kindle, actually, but this one has a lovely hardcover edition.