I’m working on the sequel to The Charlatan’s Boy, scheduled to release about this time next year. I’ve got a great idea for a scene involving a guy who wants to fight people who don’t laugh at his jokes. I’ve just got one small problem. I can’t seem to come up with a joke that isn’t funny. So, dear reader, here’s your assignment for Audience Participation Friday: tell us an unfunny joke. By ‘unfunny’ I don’t, of course, mean offensive or cruel. I just mean it misses the mark of funniness. I look forward to enjoying your creativity (or not enjoying it, if all goes well).
The nice people at Publishers Weekly gave The Charlatan’s Boy a favorable review in their September 13 issue. You can get your own signed copy (of the book, not the review) here.
Here’s that notice from Publishers Weekly:
A couple of misfits get more than they bargain for in this comical fantasy. The peddler Floyd exploits his deformed charge, Grady, so that they can both get by in the land of Corenwald. Money is hard to come by, so they capitalize on the legend of ‘feechies’–with Grady pretending to be one of the mythical swamp dwellers–to ensure their financial stability (‘Wasn’t we a pair? Floyd made his living by telling lies, and I made mine by being ugly. It wasn’t a bad living, either,’ says Grady). That scheme is just one of many for Floyd and Grady, and as they travel from village to village dabbling in phrenology, miracle cures, and more, Grady learns much about human nature–and himself. Rogers (the Wilder-king trilogy) crafts an entertaining middle-grade novel filled with hijinks and madcap characters. Suffused with backwoods vernacular, Grady’s first-person narration should engage readers from the start and hold their attention as Grady navigates his life’s surprising twists and turns with humility and humor. One final twist gives Grady a much-deserved happy ending. Ages 10 — up. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Lately we’ve been on the subject of colorful characters at Jonathan-Rogers.com. I’m reminded of a story I once heard about a colorful character somewhere in the great state of Missouri. It was told to me for the truth. The fellow who told me the story had been a lawyer near Kansas City. He was coming out of the courthouse one bright afternoon, he said, when he saw a family across the way: a four- or five-year-old daughter, a mother, and a father whose hair was styled in the feechie manner–short in the front but cascading in the back down below the scoop of his white tank top. Also, he had a parrot on his shoulder.
The father nudged the little girl and pointed up at the upper floor of the courthouse. “Baby,” he said, “wave hello to Granddaddy.” The little girl waved enthusiastically, and the onlooking lawyer looked up to see a wizened old hand reaching through the bars of the upstairs cell window to wave back. “A touching scene of filial devotion,” I think was how the lawyer described it.
The errand of mercy complete, the little girl looked up at her father and sweetly asked, “Diddy, can you take me to McDonald’s to get some french fries?”
“I sure can, Darling,” the father answered. Then he pointed at the parrot on his shoulder. “Just let me swing by and take Freebird home first.”
Before I heard that story, it had never occurred to me to want a parrot. Now I want one just so I can name him Freebird.
Bonus parrot-related anecdote: A friend of mine has a parrot named Mr. Quito. (To my friend’s chagrin, Mr. Quito turned out to be a she-parrot–a fact that came to light when Mr. Quito was several years old.) When my friend moved to a new house, he locked Mr. Quito in the closet below the stairs so that s/he would be out of the movers’ way and wouldn’t be stressed out at the sight of the house being in such disarray (who knew parrots were so particular?). But Mr. Quito was a little stressed out in spite of all. He spent much of the day repeating, “Let me out of here! Rrrawk! Let me out of here!” It was discomfiting to the movers, who gave each other concerned looks every time they walked past the stairs. Finally, unable to stand the cruelty of it any longer, one of the movers leaned down and called through the keyhole, “It’s all right, Grandma–we’ll be out of here in a little while. I’m sure he’ll let you out then.”
I have a very cool family. They made this movie to celebrate the release of The Charlatan’s Boy:
He’s mild-mannered. He’s soft-spoken. He’s an officer of the law, for crying out loud. He looks for all the world like a textbook example of a civilizer. But Michael Dohanic has got a feechie twinkle. And he lives with seven alligators. “They’re fairly well contained,” he says. Which I’m sure is a comfort to his neighbors in the town of North East, Pennsylvania (which is in northwest Pennsylvania, near Lake Erie…I think that’s a nice touch).
In captivity, an alligator can grow to 12 or 13 feet. “Does that concern you?” asks his interlocutor. “Not yet,” says our Feechie of the Week. Good answer.
It’s finally here: release day for The Charlatan’s Boy. How does one celebrate a book release? At Jonathan-Rogers.com, we celebrate with a film festival. A gratifying seventeen entries came in, each a different take on the same question: ‘Do you believe in feechies?’ These seventeen shorts (all but a few come in at less than a minute) will serve as a great warmup for The Charlatan’s Boy which (Lord willing) you can now find wherever fine books are sold.
Click here to view the Feechie Film Festival in its entirety.
I hesitate to post this video at all. It’s twelve minutes of me sitting on my patio reading the first chapter of The Charlatan’s Boy. In online video time, twelve minutes is the equivalent of ten days to two weeks. But since I’ve got it, here it is.
Florida is crawling with people who will let you watch them rassle an alligator if you buy a ticket. Those people have their reward in full. They need not aspire to the title of Feechie of the Week.
Chito is different. Chito, a Costa Rican fisherman, seems genuinely to love his crocodile Pocho. When he found Pocho, the poor croc was injured. Chito nursed him back to health, feeding him chickens and giving him medicine. (That’s the part I wonder about: how exactly does one administer medicine to a crocodile?) And then, as you might expect, he started training his crocodile to do tricks. Not for money, but to entertain his friends.
Which is to say, Chito’s career as a performer began with perhaps the greatest of all feechie utterances: “Hey, yall–watch this!” Later, his friends suggested that he start charging tourists to watch him and Pocho do their tricks. And why shouldn’t he? Good on him is what I say.
‘This is a very dangerous routine,” says Chito. “But Pocho is my friend and we have a good relationship.” A relationship, he says. With a crocodile. I’m telling you, the man is a feechie.
Here’s a little movie about Chito and Pocho. The best moment is at about 30 seconds, when Chito wears his crocodile for a hat.
Thanks to faithful readers Marie and Joe for nominating Chito for this honor.
In a recent blog post I made an off-hand mention of the fact that my friend Mark baptized his dog. A number of people have asked me about that episode, so perhaps I should elaborate. We were in third grade, and the topic was how many people we had in our families.
“Seven,” Mark said.
“Not seven,” somebody corrected. “You have six people in your family. Three boys plus one girl plus two parents.”
“Plus the dog,” Mark said.
“You can’t count the dog.”
“Sure I can,” Mark said. “I baptized him.”
Mark was the only openly Presbyterian person I knew at the time. I understood that Presbyterians were different from Baptists, but I had never known exactly how. Mark seemed pretty much like the rest of us. But now things were starting to come into focus: Presbyterians baptized their dogs.
I was a little resentful. I had tried to get baptized my own self but failed the initial interview. (Preacher: “Can you tell me in your own words why you want to be baptized?” Me: “Because all my friends are getting baptized.” End of interview.) To learn that even Mark’s dog had beaten me to the punch was just too much.
Years later I was relieved to learn that Mark’s position on canine baptism was idiosyncratic and in no way representative of the Reformed tradition.