10 March 2007

Parodying the Encyclopedia

Last month I had occasion to reread a couple of Encyclopedia Brown books, and realized that I was borrowing Donald J. Sobol’s vision of kid society for one of my current writing projects.

Each of the kids in Sobol’s books has his or (less often) her own idiosyncratic obsession: the boy who collects teeth, the kindergartner who publishes a newspaper even though he can’t read or write, the gallant ladies’ man, the rabid animal lover, the skinflint, and so on.

Of course, Encyclopedia is the same, a kid with a photographic memory sitting in his garage waiting for clients to come pay him a quarter. (He actually has some anxious moments in the first book, wondering if anyone will show up and validate him.)

In a way, Bugs Meany is the most rounded kid in Idaville: at least he’s willing to try a new scheme every couple of stories.

Do American kids today recognize such a world, where kids make their own fun instead of rushing from one scheduled activity to another? Or was Encyclopedia Brown< always secretly a parody of childhood?

In any event, it’s no surprise that such a delightfully mannered series has attracted more than its share of parodies. A selection for your entertainment:


Little Willow said...

I recently posted about Encyclopedia Brown and his connection to Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Good times.

J. L. Bell said...

I had to exert my own powers of detection to find your link, but I took inspiration from Encyclopedia Brown, who always gets his man.

I, too, saw the 1989 HBO series, an exercise in surrealism. I recently read that the producer of the show pulled it after only a few episodes in an attempt to get more money from the network.

That producer still held some Encyclopedia Brown option in late 2005 when, to Donald J. Sobol’s disgust, he announced plans with Ridley Scott to use the characters in action-adventure movies.

Within a week, that producer's partners pulled out after learning he "had been convicted of immigration fraud in 2000, sentenced to three years in prison and...disbarred." I rather hoped a certain sixth-grader with a prodigious memory was behind that.

Little Willow said...

My apologies for not posting the direct link earlier.

My goodness. Glad that it didn't happen, then.

J. L. Bell said...

Yeah, the movie concept was a jaw-droppingly dumb idea: to take one of the most admirably cerebral characters in children's literature and turn him into an action-adventure hero? That's what Sally was there for!

Little Willow said...

In related classic sleuth news, I wonder how the upcoming Nancy Drew feature film will fare.

gschmidl said...

Why is Adam Cadre's website registered through Ascension? Because that makes the TLD .ac, as in Adam Cadre.

J. L. Bell said...

That's what I figured, but I may resent the lack of a .jlb possibility.