August 17th, 2006


Read, "The Happy Warrior"

The Happy Warrior

His wild heart beats with painful sobs,
His strin'd hands clench an ice-cold rifle,
His aching jaws grip a hot parch'd tongue,
His wide eyes search unconsciously.

He cannot shriek.

Bloody saliva
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.

I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.

This is the happy warrior,
This is he...

--Herbert Read

Klause, FREAKS

One of the best YA books I've read this year is Freaks: Alive, on the Inside! by Annette Curtis Klause. It came out in January. It's set in the late nineteenth century as far as I can tell from textual clues; there are trains, but no automobiles have been shown. There is some sexual content (references, some bawdy and some romantic) and violence (most of it directed towards sympathetic characters).

The first sentence is a real grabber: "When a boy's first romantic interlude is with Phoebe the Dog-Faced Girl, he feels a need to get out into the world and find a new life."

The first-person narrator, Abel Dandy, has grown up living among performers at a resort called Faeryland, which features a "Pixie Village" inhabited by midgets and dwarves as well as a vaudeville theater where human prodigies such as his parents, a man with no legs and a woman with no arms, perform. Faeryland is not doing well financially, and early in the story, the Siamese Twins depart the show for a tour of Europe, where one twin hopes to be able to legally marry her fiance. One of the twins, in farewell, gives Abel an Egyptian ring. The ring, we gradually learn, is enchanted.

Abel's uncle has been training him in knife-throwing. Ironically, Abel runs away from home to join the circus.

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It's such a relief to find a book that is original, well-written, and instructive in a non-preachy way.