Friday, January 04, 2008


The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon-Marigolds.

I once owned this book as a teenager and this is the cover my book had. I remember staring at the girl and thinking how sad she looked, how eerie the background was. The illustration seemed to be something that would be used for a sci-fi/horror movie. The title lent itself to this interpretation, too. I was surprised to find out it wasn't about outerspace at all.

I just finished reading this play. The first time I read it must have been 1970 or so. Maybe 1972. I recently sent a copy of the play to Erin of Erin's Everyday Thoughts because she is joining a writing program with an emphasis on children's writing. I remembered that this play had a huge effect on me, so I sent her a copy and also ordered a copy for myself because I wanted to experience it again.

While reading the play this afternoon, I began to think I must have misremembered: could I really have read this at such a young age? Had the play really been available through my school book club?

It's much darker than I remembered, and the language is sometimes very strong. The characters are realistic, which is a plus, but they are very cruel to each other. The ending is bleak. Yes, there's a hint of something positive, but the positive aspect threatens to be engulfed by the shockingly cruel act at the end of the play.

So I had to look at the description of the play on Amazon again and also to try to find a book cover that was familiar to me. And, sure enough, this play by Paul Zindel has been published by Harper Teen. And I definitely know I got this book from school because because school was the only place I bought books. It's quite plausible, in fact, that our whole English class read this play and discussed it and that we may have been encouraged by our teacher to watch the movie version when it came on TV. I seem to remember these things happening, but I can't be sure. It was 26-28 years ago!

Somehow I can't imagine a high school teacher here in Ohio assigning this book to her (his) students. Could they really do that without parents complaining? I've seen news pieces about books that were much less edgy than this one being complained about and sometimes removed from classrooms.

What I do remember--and the reason I wanted Erin to have it--is that I loved the play when I read it all those years ago. It is about eccentrics trying to live together as a family and not doing very well at it. It is about a bookish girl whose school accomplishments take a backseat to family drama. It was quite possibly the first book I read that showed me my own rather odd family situation was not singular. The book gave me a great sense of relief. I feel Zindel may have even planted a seed that eventually grew into me wanting to be an author myself.

The themes in this play may be a bit darker than Erin will ultimately want to deal with in her own work; however there is much to be learned from how Zindel develops characters and organizes action. Reading the play this afternoon, I was impressed with how smoothly the play moves, how sharp the dialogue is, and how revealing of human nature the themes are. This play is so honest, almost brutal. It is just what I needed all those years ago.


Erin said...

I can't wait to read this, Theresa! (And now I'm braced for an unfortunate ending.)

ggw07 said...

I've loved this play for a long time.

ggw07 said...

More on "Marigolds" & Paul Zindel.




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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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Fave Painting: Eden

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Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

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From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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