Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book 230: The Wild Party

The Wild Party, by Joseph Moncure March, illustrated by Art Spiegelman, Pantheon Book, 1994.

According to the introduction by Art Spiegelman, this is the book that made William Burroughs want to become a writer.  It was also written in 1926, when March was 26, and it was "too hot for publication" for two years.  When it finally was published, it was banned in Boston.

The first thing I noticed about this "lost classic" when I opened it was the red velvet end-papers.  They alone made me want to buy this book.

The writing itself is Jazz Age brilliant.  It is a poem -- William Burroughs said it is -- "it rhymes".  But a poem with a staccato rhythm, not unlike a machine gun.  It's a nursery rhyme hopped up on bathtub gin.  And the descriptive lines come so fast my head spun.  I'm pretty sure this is the first time the word "ambisextrous" was used in literature.  Like most things hopped up on bathtub gin, this story doesn't end well.

Clearly, Art Spiegelman loved this poem when he illustrated it.  Not only does he say that he fell in love with the poem within his introduction that comes a few pages after the red velvet end-papers, he shows that he fell in love with the poem with every wonderful and sometimes decadent illustration.  This edition is almost as much about the artwork as it is the writing. Almost.  It's hard to beat "so dumb that it hurt".

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