You didn't expect an endless
series of FAQs, now did you? I mean there are only so many questions about
anything, and so many answers. Even the universe will poop out and fizzle-wizzle
away some day, just like me...and you, too. Well, enough philosophizing!
Let's get to the last of the frequently asked questions from my occasional visitors
and regular readership.
Question: Since you
have had some experiences with the Martian race, do you have any idea whether
or not they are going to invade Earth and annihilate us, and if so, when? I really
would like to make some preparations.
Answer: I have stated a number of times that the Martians have regarded
the human species as a reliable source of amusement for some time now, but I have
reason to suspect that our antics have, of late, become tiresome to their viewing
audience. In the telepathic emanations I receive from Mars, I have recently picked
up the distinct impression that the "reality show" we are now producing
on a global level has become a huge bore for the Martians, and they are about
ready to "switch the channel." This is not a good thing, for their version
of switching the channel will result in the wholesale elimination of our wretched
species. There are no preparations you can make to save yourselves
(unless, of course, you were the winner of the last (and best!) Mr.
Eha's Place jackpot), so carpe diem, my friends, and pray that the
Martian analogue of the Nielsen ratings for our show improves. My guess is that
if the stock market rebounds significantly, a cure for stupidity is found, another
bloody huge war doesn't break out anytime soon, and test scores improve across
the board for U.S. students, we're goners...well, at least you are a goner.
seem not to be cast in any good light in the Freddy series. Even your typical
squirrel, a jolly little fellow if ever there were one, comes across as villainous,
as in the case of the extortionist Taffy in Freddy the Cowboy. I can understand
why Mr. Brooks would employ filthy and disgusting rats as villains, but why squirrels?
I think it's time someone stood up for squirrels!
Answer: I had no idea that so many readers of the Freddy
series take offense at Brooks's depiction of squirrels as annoying (as in Camping
when they bombard "Mr. Eha" with stones) or treacherous (e.g., Taffy).
I have no ready response to this "issue." I suppose I could produce
a number of theories as to why Brooks demonizes rodents--perhaps as a child Brooks
was frightened by a squirrel, for example--but suppositions like this cannot be
substantiated and are not worth the effort it takes to think about them. And
I must point out that mice are generally treated kindly in the series. I myself
find squirrels to be obnoxious pests, and I enjoy using pepper-doused birdseed
in my feeders to deter them. I am going to perform a public service for those
of you who are amused by squirrels by providing a link to an important study:
Fishing: A new approach to rodent performance evaluation by Nikolas Gloy and Yasuhiro
Endo, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.
Question: I am a collector
of Centerboro memorabilia. Would you have anything for sale right now before your
next Spring Internet Yard Sale?
Answer: You cannot imagine how many times per week I get this query! Of
course, I usually ignore such e-mails and letters, but I just happen to have one
last Centerboro item in my possession. If you want any more, you'll have to
come to Centerboro and rummage around the antique stores or go to the Tushville
flea market (about 11 miles south of Centerboro and open every Saturday and Sunday,
8 A.M. to 5 P.M.). And by the way, I will not be conducting any more Internet
yard sales because they are simply too much trouble and I've encountered
too many deadbeats and frauds as far as payment is concerned. The other
reason why there will be no more Internet sales will be discussed later in this
FAQ. Consequently, this spring I will have a regular garage sale right here in
Centerboro and that's it! OK, here's the Centerboro item, and it goes to
the first person who sends me a bank check for the full amount!
This spiffy Centerboro souvenir
plate belonged to my mother who bought it in 1928. It is 8 inches across, there
are no chips, cracks, or crazing, and the picture of downtown Centerboro is in
shades of blue. This lovely item is specially priced for my readership
You waited too long again! Sold!
Question: Freddy is
described as "brilliant but erratic" in The Clockwork Twin. Is
this true of the real Frederick Bean?
Answer: Erratic, yes, but brilliant...emphatically, no. I've been
asked many, many times about Brooks's fictional characterizations based on real
Centerboro people, and my standard reply was, is, and always will be that almost
all of what he says about almost all the characters almost all the time is 100%
baloney. For example, Freddy is described as being about a size 44 in Politician
which would have been about right when the book was written, although he porked
up to what I would estimate to be a size 50 just before he vanished from the Centerboro
scene. But this business about his being brilliant, or a poet of some repute,
or anything other than a blackguard and vulgarian is quite, quite wrong. One thing
that Brooks either consciously or unconsciously got right was portraying the real
Frederick as an artiodactyl in his series.
Question: Are the addresses for the Bean farm given correctly in the series?
Answer: Well, let's see. In Pilot, the address is given as Centerboro
24, New York, and in Pied Piper as RFD #2, Centerboro. There would not
have been any such address as "Centerboro 24." The RFD address is correct.
Incidentally, I have a couple of the old mail whatchmacallits from way back when
in old Oteseraga County. Here they are, and they are not for sale.
Question: I've been
struggling with Contest #7 for months. I think
it's impossible to complete unless you have the whole Freddy series, have
way too much time on your hands, and are obsessive. Why don't you have
a more reasonable contest? In fact, all your contests are too hard! In fact, I
Answer: I have received numerous such complaints about Contest #7 (and
the others, too), and I must point out to the complainers that no one is
twisting your arms to participate, and your lives do not depend on getting all
the answers or any of them correct. Besides, Contest #7 was declared over
on October 25, 2002, by which time the best score was a pathetic 13 out
of 42 correct, and the prospects of ever seeing a winner seemed diminishingly
small. Because I am a basically benevolent, kindly man, I will publish the correct
answers near the bottom of this page. If you wish to continue working on the contest
for your own amusement, go ahead and avoid looking at the answers.
Question: Why do so
many of the disguises Freddy assumes in the series involve his dressing up as
Answer: An answer to this question depends on one's whole approach to reading
literature, I think. Now, I am but a Centerboro High School Class of '39 graduate
(hence at least equivalent, educationally speaking, to today's typical
four-year U.S. college or university graduate), but I enjoy reading enough that
I've taken the time to look into different ways of interpreting the books I read--fiction,
I mean, of course. Here is the short answer based on what I can make of
the quite bewildering world of literary criticism. If you want a lengthier, more
"intellectual" discussion of the meaning behind Freddy's female disguises,
I recommend that you post your query at the Freddy list. You might get
some kind of response, but I wouldn't bet on it. The membership is sluggish if
not downright apathetic most of the time. Anyway,
if you take a historical or
biographical approach to the Freddy books, you'll see everything in them
(including the various disguises and costumes Freddy wears) as a reflection of
Brooks's own personal life and his times (or of the Freddy characters'
lives and times). To understand why Freddy is frequently in drag then,
you'd have to know about the circumstances of Brooks's own life and probably the
social context of his era. Way too much effort for me!
If you think literature is
all about teaching morality and probing the perennial philosophical issues, then
you'll no doubt view Freddy's disguises and get-ups as some kind of moral or philosophical
commentary. Personally, I don't see that in the series, which strikes me as superficial
and silly for the most part, even when some moral issue or other does come up.
Does the Freddy canon accurately correspond to the real world? Is it a
series of moral observations? Does it demonstrate how real people act in real
circumstances? Beats me! I think it's just a piddling children's series that falls
far short of the best of juvenile literature.
Do you believe that you should
be able to interpret the Freddy books by what you can find within them
without referring to outside information about the history, politics, or society
of the times or about Brooks's life. Do you like examining the bits and pieces
of literary texts--like figurative language, irony, paradox, symbolism, and structural
aspects. Well, then, maybe you should adopt a formalistic approach to the Freddy
books and involve yourself in a super-close, nit-picking reading of them. Will
this yield an answer to the question of Freddy's transvestitism? I don't know.
Maybe Freddy's predilection for feminine attire is symbolic of something
or other. Maybe not.
Of course, if a formalistic
approach doesn't suit you, you could try to construct some kind of Freudian or
Jungian interpretation of Freddy's character or of Walter Brooks as an author.
What would motivate Freddy to "dress up"? What would motivate
Brooks to create a such a character? Don't ask me, because I don't know, and
I don't care. Perhaps there is some deep mythological or archetypal thing underlying
the image of Freddy in a dress and bonnet. Does an image of Freddy in a gingham
dress evoke some kind of universal response? Is it some kind of pattern emerging
from the "collective unconscious"? Pretty far-fetched, if you ask me.
If you're one of those feminists,
you could see Freddy's tendency to wear women's clothes as some kind of
criticism of patriarchal culture. Doesn't that sound like a fun approach?
Maybe Brooks was representing some kind of deep-seated male fear or anxiety in
Freddy's disguises, but maybe that whole idea is just too political or revisionist.
Do you really think Brooks was into gender issues? I doubt it, too.
Here's another possibility.
You could go to the other end of the spectrum from a formalistic approach and
take a look at your own role in creating the meaning of anything in the
Freddy books. In other words, until you read a Freddy book, it doesn't
mean anything at all. You'd get your own meaning out of reading and your personal
identity would pretty much determine what the heck a book (or Freddy's get-ups)
means to you.
Lastly, you could embark on
a recondite discourse using the principles and terms of structuralism and deconstruction,
but that kind of rubbish is best left to effete French intellectuals, or to college-aged
pseudo-intellectual pissants who are wasting their parents' money majoring in
art history, English, or communications, or to "academicians" who don't
know how to do or produce anything more useful. But, really, who outside
those three groups would have the interest or patience enough to wade through
all that buncombe?
So, I guess the answer to your
question is--it depends. If you want my opinion, why not just read the
Freddies for whatever entertainment you can find in them without straining
Question: I am sending
you this obituary which was published in the September 30, 2002, issue of the
Batavia Daily News. Batavia is the upstate New York town where I am unfortunately
stuck, and Perry is a little country village in the vicinity. Could this be the
end of your search for Freddy?
Answer: I regret not, unless all the official records pertaining
to "F. Harlan Bean" have been falsified--highly unlikely! But
thank you for thinking of me, and R.I.P., Mr. F. Harlan "Hy" Bean, whoever
you were. (By the way, did you know that Batavia is mentioned on page 175 of The
Question: We've been
waiting and waiting to see your 2002 pumpkin. Why haven't you published a picture
of it yet?
Answer: Sorry, but I've been very busy making preparations for the
Martian invasion for Mrs. U., myself, and the lucky, lucky winner of the last
Mr. Eha's Place jackpot prize. Here is a picture of my most splendid pumpkin
yet perched in the old silver maple in my front yard. The old cow who made numerous
complaints to anyone who would listen about my previous pumpkin masterpieces has
moved from across the street to Tushville with her horde of bratty little pukes,
and good riddance to them, the whining spoilsports! Since they've departed from
peaceful, tree-lined Clinton Street, I think that my Jack-o'-lantern may survive
Hallowe'en this year instead of being smashed in the middle of the street or my
Answers to Contest #7
(Don't look if you don't want to know!)
1. from the cover of Rides
Again, the animals clear a fence
2. from the endpapers of Men from Mars
3. a snippet from an illustration in Politician wherein Mrs. Wiggins
says, "I can; leave it to me."
4. a part of Freddy's advertisement in Magician
5. the animals peering in the pigpen window on the cover of Poems
6. Freddy's shirt in Cowboy as he's galloping along on Cy
7. the trees on the Scholastic edition cover of Detective
8. an eagle's tail and flapping basket cover on the cover of Perilous
9. the campfire in the Camping illustration of Freddy looking up at the
pancake on the tree limb
10. part of the background in the Cowboy illustration wherein Freddy mounts
Cy for the first time
11. Freginald writes as Freddy watches on the cover of Freginald
12. from the endpapers of Baseball Team, the rabbits watch the game
13. the ruined Grimby house in the endpapers of Dictator
14. on the cover of Popinjay, the optician fits J.J. for glasses
15. the wheel on the cart Freddy is on in To & Again
16. Mrs. Underdunk's house in News
17. the circus wagon driver in the endpapers of Freginald
18. a snip of Weedly bearing the teapot in News
19. part of the audience at Freddy's show on the cover of Magician
20. in Perilous, the eagle flying over Freddy who is riding an elephant
and towing the balloon
21. Freddy's legs in News--He's in his sailor suit having ice cream with
22. the crowd watching Freddy kick the ball in Football
23. in To & Again (illustrated by Adolpho Best-Maugard), a part of
a wheel before which Charles stands
24. Jinx holding a paintbrush on the Clockwork Twin cover
25. an owl frightened by Weedly on the Weedly back cover
26. the pillow-covered lances in the jousting tournament on the endpapers of Popinjay
27. in Ignormus, the flag Freddy bears as the gun goes off
28. Freddy and Jinx get blown over as the rocket takes off in Men from Mars.
29. In Dragon, Freddy sprays Percy with perfume.
30. the shadow of Mrs. Wiggins's horns and crown in Weedly
31. from the cover of Piper, Freddy's coat, fringes, and stomach
32. part of the background on the cover of News
33. the missing face in the portrait in Camphor
34. in North Pole endpapers, a whale's belly and icy waters
35. also from North Pole, Freddy's face at a window
36. the flapjack on the tree limb in Camping
37. Bill Wonks's steed in the endpapers of Piper
38. in Camphor, Freddy's palette
39. the wildcat grabs the ball in Football
40. In Clockwork Twin, a dog watches the mechanical boy walk toward the
41. a sign across from the title page in Freginald
42. on the cover of News, a mouse sitting on a fencepost
Now, how hard was that???
Question: I noticed
something strange in Freddy and the Space Ship. On pages 62 and 63 Freddy
says, "In order to get through the earth's atmosphere and out into space,
it is necessary to start with a speed of at least 25,000 miles an hour. Needless
to say, until the invention, by Mr. Benjamin Bean, of the Benjamin Bean Atomic
Engine, no such speed was possible. But with this engine, now for the first time
installed in a space ship, Mr. Benjamin Bean states that he will be able to develop
a velocity, not of 50,000, but of 100,000 miles per hour! (Loud cheers.) What
does this mean, ladies and gentlemen? It means that instead of taking six months
to reach Mars, our ship will reach that planet in about a week." Correct
me if I'm wrong, but the math doesn't make sense, does it?
Answer: This is the latest of the "Great Mysteries" of the Freddy
books I have received from several readers, and before the rest of you start deluging
me once again with your own mysteries, please make sure you read the last question
and answer in this FAQ. As far as this query goes, the readers are right. The
math is wrong, and a simple application of the distance formula d =
rt will yield a sensible result. Now, whether we ought attribute this wrongness
to the character of Freddy, who is not good at math, or to a Brooksian blunder
Question: In the Freddy
books, there are circuses that neighborhood kids put on. Is this based on anything
Answer: Yes. Here is a photo from one of my albums of Jimmy Wiggs, a Centerboro
lad, who liked to stage just such events. Brooks must have glimpsed one of Jimmy's
neighborhood circuses, because he refers to such events and Jimmy's name in the
books a couple of times, in Perilous and Dragon. Jimmy held these
entertainments well into his late adolescence and consequently was subjected to
a great deal of ridicule from his peers. Here you see him with his dachshund Fritz
practicing for a "big top" performance. Jimmy become a veterinarian
with a large practice in Syracuse. The less said about his brother Jack, also
mentioned in the series, the better. He was a complete bounder.
Question: Did you ever
get your Studebaker back from Herb Garble? Did you ever find out who E.T. is?
Also, do you have comprehensive statement about the entire Freddy series?
Answer: No, no, and yes. Herb Garble, my former friend and associate,
now a dual resident of Florida and Montana, has succeeded in hiding my spiffy
Studebaker from the eyes of the police and the private detectives I hired to find
it. I suspect it's under a canvas tarp in some old barn somewhere between St.
Petersburg and Twin Buttes, but I've given up hope of ever seeing it again. ET,
who had been stalking me for a number of years, suddenly vanished from the scene.
I have not heard from her in nearly a year now, and it is my fervent hope that
she has been confined to an institution from which she will never emerge. As far
as some comprehensive statement about the series, I guess I would have to say
that it's pretty much the same book times...what is it?...25. The Freddyite community
might disagree, but if they are honest, they won't. And then there's The Collected
Poems about which I have nothing new to say. It's simply a complete waste
of paper unless you've run short in the outhouse.
Question: Do you have
a favorite quotation to share with me? I am a collector of whimsical, inspirational,
and humorous quotations.
Answer: Since you ask, I do have three favorite quotations.
I don't know whether they are particularly inspirational or humorous, and they
are certainly not whimsical, but here they are. "In framing an ideal we may
assume what we wish, but should avoid impossibilities." I remember that from
our study of Aristotle in my classics class way back in eleventh grade, and it
stuck with me all these years. I attribute my longevity and all my successes in
commerce and entertainment to having paid attention to it, for the most
part, for the better part of my life. Another quotation that I like to keep in
mind is so well known that it borders on "old chestnut" status. It is
attributed to both Sir Arthur Eddington and J. B. S. Haldane: "Not only is
the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine."
It gives one pause to think, doesn't it. The third quotation in my "collection"
comes from Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you
may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."
Which reminds me to plug a terrific book! Rather than lay out thirty-five dollars
for the Freddy Anniversary Collection (I mean, what for?), why not
spend that hard-earned money on Harold Bloom's splendid Genius: A Mosaic of
One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds?
The Penultimate Question:
Have you changed your mind about attending one of the Friends of Freddy conventions?
The Penultimate Answer: Certainly not. At best I would be
a distracting presence at any gathering of Freddyites, and at worst...well, one
shudders to imagine, but I could possibly be largely ignored or viewed
as some unpleasant substance found where it has no good reason to be--on
the bottom of one's shoe, for example. As I have noted elsewhere on this site,
the Freddyite community and I bear the same relationship as matter and antimatter.
We can and do occupy the same universe, sort of, but we really ought to
stay in our own corners. Our presence on different servers on the Internet is
close enough for me! However, our mutual assured destruction should we ever come
into contact does not preclude--indeed would require--my sending an agent to the
convention to gather information which I might report here. Axon Spardoze (for
those of you who have asked, it's pronounced "AKS-on spar-DOZE-uh"),
my confederate and the editor-in-chief of Mr. Eha's Place, did attend
the FOF 2002 convention under an assumed name and has sent me a summary report
which I shall further summarize here. For a more complete (though biased) report,
you'll have to wait until the next Bean Home Newsletter comes out--if you're
a subscriber, that is.
- First of all and most importantly,
Axon was unable to establish any clear link between the FOF, freemasonry, the
Illuminati, or the Free Association Church of Centerboro. It seems that the FOF
is a stand-alone organization, more whimsical than cultish, comprised of a number
of affable sorts from all walks of life and age groups with the exceptions of
infants, toddlers, and ancient doddering wrecks, judging from the attendees. Unless
Axon was totally taken in, the FOF seems to be mostly harmless. The past and present
leadership of the FOF appears to be a well-meaning lot who have as their principal
goal the publication by Overlook Press of every single thing written by Mr. Brooks
and new material related to the series (such as The Art of Freddy) as well
as a biography of Mr. Brooks. I do not see any particular harm in that goal, though
I do not see any particular good, either. This statement would certainly be hotly
contested by the membership of the FOF, who are rather single-minded about their
aims, but then one would naturally expect that, wouldn't one.
- As for the events of the
convention, there were a number of amusing and/or informative talks and happenings
that would interest Freddyites, but bewilder non-Freddyites, naturally enough.
Of course, the very same could be said of this site or of the proceedings at a
convention of massage therapists or screen door manufacturers. Axon was particularly
impressed with a presentation entitled "Freddy's Career in Espionage."
The "...and you, sir, are no Porky Pig" line was perhaps the best one
delivered during the convention. However, knowing of my intense interest in the
subject of Freddy and the law, Axon regretted not catching a later presentation
by a barrister-to-be entitled "Freddy and the Law." There was also a
book auction that Axon attended where he witnessed the urge to collect operating
at full strength. He wished, though, that the stepdaughter of Mr. Brooks had won
the single thing she bid upon. That would have been nice. At the group's
Saturday night banquet, the head honcho from Overlook Press spoke warmly of the
Freddy series, but Axon and I both agree that Overlook should be given
much more credit for publishing things like Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion
Tetraology and David Mamet's Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources
(which reminds us of parts of Axon's own sadly out-of-print, nearly-impossible-to-find
novel Mostly Water). Axon next attended what he characterized as "a
drollish puppet show" which dramatized episodes from Weedly, but having
no experience as a drama critic, he declined in good conscience to say much else.
Another major event took place right in Axon's room following the show. While
attempting to adjust the heat level on the climate control unit, he twice banged
his head on a badly placed hanging lamp. He did not suffer any great injury and
is not contemplating a lawsuit against the Windham Arms.
- Axon reports satisfaction
with the wine list at the Windham Arms and thought that six bucks for a glass
of the Black Forest Girl Pinot Noir was well worth it. The food at the Arms was
not bad, he says (at least the blackened catfish wasn't) but pricey for what he
was served, and if he were ever again to stay at the Windham Arms, he'd probably
eat in town or bring a cooler full of cold cuts and condiments to economize.
- Finally, and of least importance,
Axon was quite disappointed in not being able to find a box of Loostner's Castor
Oil Flakes for sale anywhere in the northern Catskills on his drive home. He remembers
this tasty breakfast concoction from the days when he and his parents summered
in the area.
The Last Question: You've
been at it creating this site for a number of years now. I remember first seeing
it on the AOL personal web pages maybe in 1996 when it was around three or four
pages long. How much longer are you going to keep it up?
The Last Answer: N.B.
You are reading this answer on the final archived or CD version of Mr. Eha's
Place. The answer below was intended for an Internet audience when Mr. Eha's
Place was a "live" project, and the information contained in it is outdated.
Much of the content of the answer below no longer applies. I have included this
information for historical reference only. The
long and short of it is that I'm not going to keep it up any longer--at
least not as regularly as I have been over the past few years. Following the completely
non-self-serving commercial messages of the big not-money-driven-at-all
pharmaceutical firms to "Ask your doctor about..." and "Talk to
your doctor about...," I went ahead and asked my doctor about all
kinds of drugs and pills of every shape and color (even purple!),
which he was only too glad to talk about and prescribe for me since he has become
little more than a front for the drug companies. But--I digress. Despite
all my new pills, despite my good eating habits, despite my scrupulous
attention to personal hygiene, and despite my robust mental, emotional,
and spiritual health, my age (I'm closing in on my late-eighties) has finally
caught up with me, and I have been slowing down considerably of late. This is
perhaps the last FAQ you'll read here, and I have no plans at
this time for any other major additions of any kind or sort to the
site. I don't even have the pepper to finish the "All the Marbles" story
on the Tales Out of School (and Elsewhere):
True Stories from the Golden Age of Centerboro, New York page. My never
having been awarded the Friends of Freddy Lifetime Achievement Award (if
it exists) has also contributed to my decision to pack it in, as has all the time
I must now spend preparing to survive the onslaught of the Martian expeditionary
forces, which I expect to arrive on this miserable planet any moment now. So then,
if you have questions or comments related to Mr. Brooks's inconsequential scribblings,
you should direct them to the scholars, raconteurs, pundits, and lurkers at the
Freddy maillist from now on. For example, you might pose a question such as that
which follows and see what happens:
In Magician, two dates
are mentioned--there are a Tuesday, Aug.2, and a Tuesday, Sept. 2. Also, the tail-end
of a hurricane is mentioned as having already passed through Centerboro that year.
Is it possible to nail down Magician's place in the chronology of what
I call the Freddyverse with this information?
It might be possible,
but I'll let the Freddyites work on it, if they're so inclined, which I strongly
doubt. And if you think questions like this are way too nitpicky, you really
ought to see the material churned out by the annotators and fans of such series
as the Wizard of Oz books or the Sherlock Holmes canon!
Well, it's that time to wrap
everything up now. You are welcome to revisit Mr. Eha's Place as often
as you like--at least until I take it down in order to conserve bandwidth or until
the Martians dismantle it for me--whichever comes first. I will continue to read
e-mail sent from the site, and I will still collect any surveys and other forms
you might wish to submit (including applications for the
prestigious Bean Farm Award) as long as I remain on this hapless planet.
All the forms are now in working order! But if you have anything like a "Great
Mystery" you'd like to see published, well, I'm almost certainly done with
all that and all the rest as of today. Time now to read the official
farewell messages from me and my dear friend Axon Spardoze, if you wish. Although
I have by and large left the building here, I will not vanish altogether.
I may emerge from time to time from my semi-retirement as a website creator to
add something to Mr. Eha's Place, but don't hold your breath! You may also
hear from me occasionally at the Freddy list, and until then, friends and visitors,
farewell, and I remain,
Your friend, Mr. Eha