Thursday, July 03, 2014

Louis C.K. saves Clifford the Big Red Dog

I have been trying to pare down our massive collection of children's books -- books that I'd started collecting well before I had children -- and it's not that easy. Notwithstanding the protests of my children, I have a hard time letting go. 

In the matter of Norman Bridwell's Clifford the Big Red Dog books, I have wavered. Certainly, both girls have enjoyed Clifford, but he was never their favourite book character for any discernible length of time. I like Clifford the Big Red Dog -- hey, we go back a long time -- but I don't need these books on the shelves anymore.

Then, I happened upon one of Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy routines (Live at the Beacon) recently, and I was surprised to hear him speaking about the oversized dog. I really enjoy his darkish humour about the relative scope and depth of the Clifford books.

It's just -- they read Clifford the Big Red Dog to you at a rate of fifty minutes a page. And you have to sit there and be horribly proud and bored at the same time.
I hate Clifford the Big Red Dog. I hate him. There's fifty books about Clifford the Big Red Dog. Fifty books. There's seven books about Narnia that cover the birth and death of a nation, and mice with swords and a lion who's a god. They did it in seven books.
Fifty books about Clifford the Big Red Dog, and they all tell the exact same story: 'Look how big this dog is.' That's it. That's it...'Look how big this dog is.'
It's the whole book. 'Here's how big he was at the firehouse. Here's how big he was at Thanksgiving.' Who gives a ****? You just drew him big. You just on purpose made him bigger than people. It should be, 'Look how big I drew the dog in this book. Isn't that a mistake?' There's no story. You maybe even just drew him closer to the page. I don't even know if you did it honestly. 
On the issue of adding dramatic interest, Louis C.K. continues:
Tell a story about Clifford. Make something happen where maybe he steps on a policeman and shatters his spine, and it's devastating to the community. He hangs on for two months and then dies, and there's a whole, you know, funeral with bagpipes, and everybody is crying. And Clifford gets the death penalty and there's a whole book about his appeal process and how he found Jesus but everybody said it was b******* and the cop's wife was like, 'I want that dog dead!' And then he goes to the chair and they shave all his red fur off and now he's Clifford the Big Pink Dog. And they put him on a big, funny electric chair that the town got together and built...
Alas, one of my children no longer cares about Clifford the Big Red Dog, and the other only occasionally pays attention to him. All those moments in which I had found myself pleading inwardly, "No, not another Clifford book" and "No, not this book yet again" while experiencing the almost unbearable repetition of the same books day after day and night after night? They are the stuff of good memories. So, Clifford? I have to keep Clifford. Clifford stays.

(from PBS KIDS "Clifford Saves A Ferry")

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