Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Dangerous Plot for Boys

Greetings, friends. I feel the need to hail you because it's been so long between posts; days at a time. Life is a whirlwind here in Thinkuland.

Charles McGrath has an interesting article in last Sunday's Times about The Dangerous Book for Boys. (See my post on the book here.) It seems Disney has contracted with director Scott Rudin ("The Queen" and "School of Rock") to produce a movie based on the book. Hard to conceive, really. I liked the book, myself, but come on: A Rudyard Kipling poem and a piece on how to make a paper water-bomb hardly seem like blockbuster material.

McGrath points out that the book's not nearly as dangerous as it makes itself out to be, since "there is less stuff to do in [it] than to read about." True, though making a vinegar-powered battery might be as dangerous as we can hope for from today's plugged-in, tuned-out lads. (I spent the summer with 50 of them, and getting them to put their GameBoys away for more than five minutes -- even in favor of interpersonal games they really loved -- was a continual struggle.) And besides, dangerous or not, a vinegar battery is still pretty darn cool.

But like McGrath, I'm skeptical of the movie, and I enjoyed the plot line he predicts:
A dad who, worried that his son is becoming a softy and a wuss, buys an under-the-counter copy of a mysterious Edwardian tome and forces the boy to listen as he reads aloud from it. “Don’t swagger,” he says, quoting Sir Frederick Treves. “The boy who swaggers — like the man who swaggers — has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares.”

Pretty soon the two of them are off in the woods together, killing rabbits, talking Latin, reciting Kipling and, safely away from women, companionably breaking wind. Junior ties knots, makes flint arrowheads and recites the rules of Rugby while Dad — Pater, that is — sucks on his pipe and lectures the lad about cold showers and avoiding “beastliness.”

Meanwhile, Mom has bought a book of her own, a home-repair manual, and has set about changing all the locks.

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