& Reviews of
Unpublished Freddy Manuscripts
(Manuscripts I Rescued from
the Big Bean Farm Fire)
I must respond to
the profusion of negative press I have received regarding my disposal
of unpublished Freddy material. Yes, I have thrown out a large number
of ghastly so-called poems by that damnable Freddy Bean--scribblings
that in their technical ineptitude and poverty of imagination were too
horrible for the world to see. I have absolutely no regrets over
my actions whatsoever, and I tender no apologies. Borrowing the
words of those squid-like politicians and other assorted frauds, "I
accept full responsibility" --except I really mean it. If those
of you who have been filling my mailbox with your excoriations had actually
seen the trashy hogwash Freddy churned out, you'd be thanking
me instead of heaping your scorn and, yes, even threats upon
me. I was so worried about some of the more menacing ones
that I raced down to the Centerboro police, who once again dismissed
me as a crank. Well, if I ever show up drawn and quartered in the middle
of the town square, maybe then they'll start taking me seriously.
That said, I will now
admit to being in possession of certain other manuscripts--just as some
of you have long suspected. When the Bean farm burned down, I was there
helping to put out the fires as I've already said. I did rescue some
of their possessions from the house. I carried out some picture
albums, several large boxes wrapped up in heavy mailing paper, the family
Bible, silverware, antique lamps, the picture of Washington crossing
the Delaware, etc., etc. Most of the stuff I simply piled up with the
rest of the articles folks were bringing out of the burning house, but
I did put the albums and the boxes in the trunk of my car and the rest
of the small stuff on the seats to keep it all from getting dirty or
wet in all the commotion.
Now, if I were a common
thief, I could have kept all the stuff, and no one would have
been the wiser. In all the commotion, no one saw me take any particular
thing out of the house, and if something didn't turn up after the fire--say
the Washington picture, for example--well, it would have been presumed
lost in the flames or stolen by anybody there. But I returned
the silverware, the Bible, and all the rest of the items I had put into
my car for safekeeping. I simply forgot about the albums and
boxes until several weeks later when I had to get my spare umbrella
out of the trunk. Well, I always intended to return it, but I
just never seemed to get around to it, and since no one ever asked around
about it.... It wasn't until some relatively recent housecleaning
that I ran across the stuff again and discovered Freddy's "poems" and
the unpublished manuscripts of a number of Freddy novels.
How did these manuscripts
ever wind up at the Beans' house to begin with, you ask? Well,
now, everybody knows that Walter R. Brooks was a fairly regular
seasonal vacationer around here and a frequent visitor at the
Beans', being the self-styled "historian" of the Bean farm. The Beans
put him up in Byram and Adoniram's old room where I believe he did a
great deal of writing. He must have left some of his manuscripts there,
because that's exactly where I found the boxes containing them. I don't
know if he intended to send these manuscripts to his publisher or not.
Perhaps he did and these were rejects. I did find a rejection
slip for one of the manuscripts. But, after all these years, what does
it matter what Mr. Brooks's intentions were? I kept the manuscripts
by the chimney in my attic, where they became a bit moist and mildewed
from having been stored beneath an intermittently leaky roof, now fixed.
Now that I have dried
them out, I have wasted a good deal of my time reading the manuscripts,
and I can report to you that they are at best no more meritorious
than your typical Freddy story. Some are rather interesting,
and some are not. If only you could see them you could
judge for yourselves, but since that is quite impossible, you'll
just have to rely upon my objectivity and good taste in literature to
serve as your guide to their contents. To keep you from cluttering up
my mailbox with inquiries, I will list them in the order in which they
are piled up here on the floor next to me, give a short summary and
rating of each. And to further demonstrate my fundamental honesty,
I will entertain absolutely no requests to sell these manuscripts,
which, no doubt, represent something like the Holy Grail to fanatic
Freddyites and money-grubbing bookdealers. I have already asked
Dougal to contact the Brooks estate and to make arrangements to transfer
the manuscripts to their rightful owner or owners. In the meantime,
they will be kept in a secure place--not my house, so don't bother
breaking in--to minimize the possibility of theft.
For those who have accused
me of writing spoilers here, you might be right--if there
were ever anything worth spoiling or if the manuscripts were ever to
be published. But what are the chances of that? How about
wonder if you and I have the same suspicion--an inkling that there is
a good likelihood that more unpublished Freddy material is "out
there." Perhaps it is languishing in a forgotten trunk in someone's
attic, as did the first half of Twain's Huckleberry Finn manuscript
for over ninety years until its discovery in 1990 by somebody or other's
granddaughter. I don't consider all the Freddy material
in existence 1/1,000,000th as important as any one page of the
first two-thirds of Huckleberry Finn, but I have come to understand
(at least intellectually) its appeal to those pathetic, benighted Freddyites.
Perhaps if you are in possession of Freddy manuscripts, you
will find a way to let the world--well, at least that infinitesimal
part of the world that would evince interest if not actual gratitude--know.
= If I were starving, I would eat this book and my leather shoes,
but I wouldn't read it to save my life.
1 = Wretchedly septic
2 = Not worthy to wrap hamster droppings in
3 = Endurable, but only if you hold your nose
4 = I
might have bought this book at a jumble sale for a nickel--but
I would not have spent a dime.
5 = Passable as nearly-competent juvenile fiction
William Shakespeare visits Freddy in a dream brought on by Freddy's overeating
at a Bean farm Fourth of July picnic and gives him several ideas for popular
dramas. Freddy proceeds to compose a five-act play in nearly iambic pentameter
about food groups which the animals stage before an loudly unappreciative
Centerboro audience in Sibney Memorial Park. In a snit, Freddy throws
rotten tomatoes at the audience, is arrested for public mayhem, confined
in the Centerboro jail where he eats cake and plays croquet, and composes
another play about New York high society called Twinkletoes on the
Town which is backed by Mrs. Church and which meets with some critical
acclaim. Though tempted to move to the big city to begin a glamorous career
in the theater, Freddy declines his calling in favor of a peaceful and
humble existence with all his friends on the Bean farm. The final performance
of Twinkletoes is of the hey-kids-let's-put-on-a-show variety
performed by the Bean farm menagerie in the big barn before a very indulgent
audience, and this is a quite satisfactory end to his career as a playwright
as far as Freddy is concerned. A subplot involves the Bean Family Restaurant
which Jinx, Mrs. Wiggins, and Mrs. Bean open about 100 yards down the
Rating = minus 5. This
manuscript is not even good enough to begin to stink which would have earned
it a rating of 3. A very tedious flop, believe me. The notion of a Bean Family
restaurant, though, does strike me as an idea with possibilities. One wonders
if Mrs. Bean would serve up any pork dishes. Would the smell of sizzling bacon
waft upon the air currents of the Bean farm? There is no evidence in the manuscript
one way or the other.
and the Robot
After all the trouble with the celebrated clockwork twin, Uncle
Ben perfects a technologically more advanced robot, this one remote-controlled,
to do Mrs. Bean's housework and Mr. Bean's farm chores. At first everything
goes along just hunky-dory. The robot is equally proficient with a carpet
sweeper and a pitchfork, and, virtually freed from the near-slavery running
a farm entails farm, William and Martha contemplate taking a vacation.
However, the robot is taken over by renegade Horribles who use it to rule
over Centerboro. A full-scale invasion of locusts led by Zero the horsefly
complicates the plot, as does the appearance of the now nearly-grown-up
"dirty-faced boy" and the reappearance of Simon and his gang who battle
the Horribles for supremacy. Herb Garble is cast as the villain behind
both the Horribles and Simon's crew, playing one group against the other
for his own evil purposes. Eventually the animals prevail as Jacob and
his fellow wasps once more save the day, assisting the repentant Horribles
and the Bean farm animals to overcome Simon, Zero, and Herb in a battle
royal in the streets of Centerboro. Secondary plots concern an attempt
by the four mice to get Uncle Ben to build them a tiny armored car to
man (or is it "mouse") against the Horribles and the redemption
of the former dirty-faced boy.
Rating = 2. Semi-amusing
in parts, but way too busy, confusing, and disjointed. Too many familiar
faces and situations cobbled together into a mishmash of unlikely occurrences.
The idea of renegade Horribles really does not obtain, does it? Too many villains,
too, I'd say.
and Weedly at the Donner Pass
The Bean animals decide to go to Florida again, but lose their bearings
and wind up in a freakish blizzard that leaves them stranded in the infamous
Donner Pass. Freddy fries up some bacon and saves the crew from starvation.
Less several of the original party, they reach the Pacific Ocean, lounge
about on a beach, flee from movie studio thugs who want to exploit them
in low-budget films, and eventually find their way back to Centerboro
after battling a puma gang on the way home. The rejection slip I
mentioned above was tucked into this manuscript.
Rating = 0. Almost
good enough to reach the level of wretchedly septic. I guess you could call this
title one of Brooks's darker fictions. There is a noticeable lack of humor in
the manuscript. Mercifully, we are spared even the most offhand reference to actual
cannibalism (with the exception of the title and the chapter in which the animals
struggle through the Donner Pass). The animals who do not push on to California
simply return home to Centerboro. I cannot understand why, with all the possible
settings Mr. Brooks could have employed, he chose the Donner Pass. Was he in a
saturnine mood the day he sat down at his typewriter to rough out the plot?
and the Yeti
A Himalayan yeti escapes from a traveling circus (a competitor of Boomschmidt's
run by a thoroughly reprehensible miscreant named Mr. Gouger). The creature
terrorizes Oteseraga County, knocking over hayricks, stealing from gardens,
downing clothespoles, and overturning cars. After kidnapping the Bean
ducks and holing up in the Grimby house, the yeti is confronted by the
F.A.R. army, and several of the smaller animals suffer minor injuries
in the fray. Jacob the wasp comes to the rescue as usual. The yeti, humbled,
reveals a softer side, and rather than return to its bad-tempered ways
or to Tibet, it agrees to join Boomschmidt's circus. A subplot involves
Jinx's attempts to make the world's largest ball of twine.
Rating = 1.5. All in
all, this could have been one of Brooks's finest efforts: there's classic good
versus evil in the competing circuses and their owners; there's a typical, yet
always interesting Brooksian subtext of redemption; there's an exotic, misunderstood
antagonist; there's the familiar, completely understood Bean farm entourage. And
yet it all collapses for lack of strong characterization and a patent ending.
the Public Health Officer
A mysterious parasitic skin infection plagues the Bean farm. The symptoms
include blotchiness and severe itching. Freddy assumes the role of a public
health officer. There are only two complete chapters in this manuscript
and a third unfinished, so one assumes that Mr. Brooks thought better
of continuing this bizarre narration.
Rating = ??? The
less said, the better. What was he thinking?
Conquers the World
Freddy joins with the Martians to help defend the United States against
the Soviet Bloc countries and their new, powerful confederates, the evil
purple Venusians. There are pitched flying saucer battles over Moscow
and Washington, and Freddy becomes the first interplanetary saucer pilot
ace. Uncle Ben figures prominently as the inventor of a disintegrator
ray (The Benjamin Bean Molecular Frazzler) and William Bean puts on his
World War I U. S. Army uniform and joins the F.A.R. troops as they fight
back an expeditionary force from occupied Canada. A new villain appears
in this book, a Mr. Smurk, who attempts to convince Centerboro that it's
"Better purple or red than dead."
Rating = 4. I
rather liked this one for its nicely unified plot and interesting complications.
Smurk (not based, as far as I know, on anyone from Centerboro) would have been
one of Mr. Brooks's best villains. The working title is a bit misleading, though.
Also, the writing style Mr. Books adopts in Conquers reminds one strongly
of the bland, algorithmic sketchiness of any of the Tom Swift, Jr. books.
Freddy becomes a judge for the first Annual Animal Beauty and Talent Contest
ever held at the Oteseraga County Fair. As a prank, Jinx leads the winner,
Ginger, one of Witherspoon's pigs, to believe that Freddy had been instrumental
in convincing the rest of the panel that she should wear the crown, and,
much to Freddy's dismay, she pursues him romantically for the next 150
pages. When Jinx's jest is discovered, Ginger and Freddy conspire to take
their revenge. Two subplots concern a crop failure that threatens the
existence of the Bean farm and the return of the freeloading Bismuths.
Rating = 1.5. Revenge
is served most satisfyingly cold, but the rest of the book--Ho, ho hum!
and the Pigasus
Freddy, Mr. Camphor, and Bannister are once again discussing platitudes,
old chestnuts, maxims, proverbs, and catch-phrases. Freddy becomes fixated
on the old rejoinder "When pigs can fly," and it isn't long before he,
Jinx, and Freddy's cousin Ernest's son Ernest, Jr. begin experimenting
with flight. A bruised nose and a sprained tail later, and they haven't
managed to do much better than jump out of the hayloft door and land
hard. With Uncle Ben's help, an atomic-powered flying machine resembling
a dirigible in the shape of a pig, the "Pigasus," is constructed. Freddy,
Jinx, and Ernest, Jr. then zoom around the countryside dusting crops,
delivering the mail, and barnstorming. Mr. Gnash, an airshow promoter,
attempts to steal the Pigasus. There's a spectacular crash in the Adirondacks
and cameo appearances by Baldy and Breckenridge.
Rating = 1. Obviously
pre-Freddy the Pilot material, this book never gets off the ground. Its
villain is not convincing and its plot is incoherent at times and boring throughout.
Tepid dialogue. No real adventure.
and the Oteseraga Lake Monster
A mysterious creature rises in the gloaming from the depths of Oteseraga
Lake and pursues fishermen, recreational boaters, and lakeside campers.
After some detecting, Freddy discovers that the "monster" is fashioned
out of rubber and is being employed by some businessmen to attract tourists
and their money to Centerboro. Herb Garble is cast as the ringleader.
The businessmen attempt to suppress Freddy's discovery and almost succeed
in nailing him in that crate and shipping him to Montana. All the
commotion at the lake arouses the genuine monster, an American cousin
of the Loch Ness Monster, who helps Freddy thwart the businessmen.
Its once peaceful existence completely disturbed, the monster is spirited
away to Lake Placid by the rebuilt Pigasus.
Rating = 0.5. Way too
much like Freddy and the Dragon, which was pretty much a hack job itself.
the Inventor (Partial
Ben takes a vacation and fails to lock up his blueprints which are discovered
by the foraging mice who tell Freddy. He puts on the hat of inventor
and uses Uncle Ben's plans to construct several of the inventions. Among
other things, there's a helmet with flip-down X-ray goggles which Mrs.
Wiggins uses to find the lost heirloom nose ring given to her long ago
by her father Percy. There's a contraption for mucking out stalls in
a matter of seconds. There's also a mysterious sealed envelope marked
"Top Secret," and Freddy is sorely tempted to take a peek. Unfortunately
we never discover what's in the envelope as this is one of Brooks's
incomplete drafts. One suspects, though, that it will have an anti-rat
application as there are suggestions that Simon's gang has once again
returned to the Bean farm.
Rating = 1. This plot
does have some possibilities, but there is really nothing novel in it. The inventions
are not inspired and the stall mucker is a bit too realistic for this type
of literature. The rats are old hat.
Goes to Mars
The Martians stick around for a while and enjoy their hero status after
the First Interplanetary War with the Soviets and the Venusians in this,
a sequel to Freddy Conquers the World. They rejoin Boomschmidt's
circus for a while, but decide to return home after receiving some
disturbing news: there is a newly discovered Venusian Air Force outpost
on Mars. They propose that their former comrades-in-arms Freddy, Jinx,
Charles, Georgie, and the mice return with them to help battle the menace.
Freddy and the others agree, and it's off to Mars and a series of adventures
in the ancient canyons, caves, and cities of the red planet. Amusing
episodes are interspersed throughout, one particularly funny one being
the first meeting between the Bean animals and the Martian Supreme Ruler
during which Jinx mistakes one of the Ruler's dorsal appendages for
a snake and pounces on it.
Rating = 4. Almost mediocre!
Adventure, humor, not-weak plot. Martian-related stories are Mr. Brooks's forte.
Unusual in that human characters appear in only the first and last chapters.
and the Bean Farm Olympics (Partial
Things get boring on the Bean farm again, and the animals decide to
have an all-animal Olympic competition. Animal teams from Centerboro
and the surrounding farms train hard for such events as the 100-yard
waddle, the as-the-crow-flies-cross-country-free-for-all dash, the staying-
underwater-in-the-duckpond-holding-your-breath competition, and the
hay-wagon pulling contest. Boomschmidt's Circus happens to be passing
through Centerboro at the time, so the circus animals join in the fun.
Rating = 0. Terrible!
It took Brooks only two chapters to realize that this one was going nowhere.
and the Time Machine (Notes)
For this title there are just a few scanty notes on one side of
a single sheet of paper. Evidently Mr. Brooks envisioned a story wherein
Freddy travels back and forth in the past, meeting various luminaries
(such as Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Leonardo da Vinci) and witnessing
famous historical events. The last words on the sheet are "5000 AD?"
which suggests that Brooks intended Freddy to venture into the future
as well. The origin of the time machine is not explained, nor can one
imagine how Brooks would have dealt with the paradoxes of time travel.
Rating = ??? Not
much to go on here. Seems likely that if this work had ever been published, it
wouldn't have met with much commercial success as Mr. Brooks may have had an "educational"
or "serious" intent.
and the Giant Rat of Centerboro
Freddy dons his deerstalker once again and employs his Sherlockian skills
to solve the mystery of the Giant Rat of Centerboro, a mysterious and
immense rat-like inhabitant of the alleyways and shadowy corners of
town who has been kidnapping household pets and holding them for ransom,
breaking into stores, and generally disrupting the peaceful Centerboro
milieu. On a tip from a group of "city" mice, Freddy tracks the
creature to the furnace room beneath the Grand Palace Motion Picture
Theatre. We discover that the "Giant Rat" is actually the long-absent
Freginald who is being forced by Simon's gang (which threatens to sabotage
Boomschmidt's Circus which Freginald manages) to
out their criminal activities. It's the F.A.R. to the rescue and battles
rage again on the streets of Centerboro. Of course, the rats are
Rating = 0.5. Implausible.
Dumb, even. All-too-familiar plotting and characters. And what a great story it
could have been, even with Freginald as a main character!
the Submariner (Multipage
More hijinks beneath the surface of Oteseraga Lake as Uncle Ben builds
a miniature submarine to explore its depths. In Freddy and the
Oteseraga Lake Monster it is revealed that the centuries-old creature
had been living in an extensive system of interconnecting submarine and
subterranean caves and tunnels which lead to the Hudson River. Freddy,
Jinx, Charles, Georgie, and a stowaway--Ezra--now explore the passageways
all the way to the mouth of the Hudson River and back. Among their discoveries: pirate
treasure, phosphorescent fungus, an empire of rats and their woodchuck
slaves, and a cache of Revolutionary War relics and weapons. Despite Ezra's
best attempts to sabotage the animals' efforts to liberate the woodchucks,
the rats are overthrown with the help of one of the cannons. The fungus
comes in handy.
Rating: 1.5. Formulaic.
Too busy. Same old crew from the farm. Simon is unaccountably a no-show. The most
commendable part of the narrative is that Ezra becomes a rounded character, which
isn't saying a heck of a lot. I'm surprised Jacob doesn't show up to save the
Goes to College
(Authorship is uncertain.)
Freddy finishes high school and enrolls in nearby Hamilton College where
he becomes a liberal arts major and football team mascot. When he tries
to join a snooty fraternity, an anti-animal faction blackballs him, causing
a campus-wide split between those in favor of higher education for animals
and those against. The president of the college, one Professor Abitwahr,
conspires with the anti-animal element to rid the campus of Freddy by
having him framed and then expelled for cheating on an English literature
test. Mr. Camphor, an alumnus, forces Abitwahr to back down by threatening
to withhold his generous annual contribution to the endowment fund. Interesting
episodes involve an old-fashioned panty raid, minor hazing incidents,
and a march on the dining hall where roast pork is being served up at
the annual meeting of the college's trustees and where Freddy delivers
a fiery peroration. Freddy turns down a hastily proffered scholarship
from the chastened trustees and returns to the farm without a degree.
Rating = 1.5. Borrrrrring!
Preachy. Moralistic. Teeeedious. This seems to be a flimsy attempt by Mr. Brooks
(if indeed he is the author) to combine juvenile fiction and socially conscious
literature. The panty raid incident is so uncharacteristic of Brooks's
other works, published and unpublished, that it casts serious doubt on the authorship
of this title.
When the mayor of Centerboro decides not to run for reelection, two candidates
emerge from the body politic. One is Herb Garble, former school board
member of Centerboro and prosecuting attorney of Oteseraga County. The
other is a superannuated former mayor, one Major Sibney (US Army ret.), who
has been brought out of retirement by what appears to be a "nice people's
party" of some sort to defeat Herb Garble. When Mr. Sibney falls off a
ladder (had a rung been sawn through by Garble's election team?) while
putting up a campaign poster, the animals and all decent people of Centerboro
prevail upon Mrs. Wiggins, President of the F.A.R., to run for mayor.
What follows is exactly what you would expect--chicanery and conniving
on the part of Garble, justifiable counterpunching on the part of the
animals and their human allies, and the eventual defeat of Garble. The
story ends with an amusing inaugural celebration (during which Garble
is put in stocks) which raises the overall rating from a 1 to...
Rating = 2. I concede
that Wiggins for President (Freddy the Politician in its later incarnations)
is possibly a good read. However, this manuscript is way too derivative.
Doesn't it seem too, too familiar to you? Don't they all?
the Salesman (Partial
Freddy and the animals dream up a home industry--the production and sale
of well-rotted manure for home gardening. Hank and the cows are enlisted
to work on the production end, and Freddy takes on the job of selling
"Bean Farm Deluxe" to discerning individuals and garden clubs. That's
about it. Notes suggest a rivalry between the Bean farm animals and those
from the Macy, Witherspoon, and Schermerhorn farms that develops into
a merger and then a manure monopoly.
Rating = 0.5. What a
buncha "crap"! Although, if you think about it, it does have some
comic possibilities. But who wants to think about it? Almost as bad in its
conception as the "Public Health Officer" storyline. Yecccchhh!
Goes Mountain Climbing
The peaks of the springtime Adirondacks beckon and soon there is another
Bean Farm expedition that wends its way north, this time not quite
so far north. In what appears to be a coincidental anticipation of Deliverance,
there is a disastrous canoe spill in the treacherous rapids of the Ausable
River and an ugly encounter with some backwoods types. Stumbling
across Freddy who is alone in camp making pancakes while the other animals
cavort in the nearby river, they mistake him for a camper at first, but
upon hearing him squeal like a pig when stung by a yellow jacket, they
determine to turn him and the more edible members of the farm band into
dinner, and the chase is on. It's over the mountains and through the wood--until,
of course, the animals make it back safely to the farm.
Rating = 1. Disappointing
given the dramatic possibilities. Predictable. Hackneyed. Conventional villains.
and the Secret Mission
Upon hearing of the of the A.B.I.'s investigative potency and Freddy's prowess
as a detective, the F.B.I. enlists Freddy's assistance in tracking down
a gang of bank robbers rumored to be hiding out in the vicinity of Centerboro.
Freddy infiltrates the gang disguised as an Irish thug and affecting his
usual terrible brogue. Mr. Pomeroy, Horace, Jacob and his crew, and Sniffy
Wilson and his family join together to find and defeat the robbers in
their secret lair--an old favorite, the Grimby house. There's an air attack
by Jacob, chemical warfare, a siege, and a massive frontal assault. Freddy
chips a tooth. Of course, the action ends with the rout and arrest of
the no-goodniks. Brook's chief villain in this one
is "Murderer" O'Toole, named not for his crimes against humanity,
but against the English language. Many humorous malapropisms and neologisms,
which are, however, not enough to lift this dud to any whole-number rating
Rating = 0.25. All the
usual folderol and gimcrackery. Ho, hum. Reminds me of the bland, lifeless plotting
of children's television. Offensive stereotyping of the Irish.
at the Center of the Earth (Fragmentary
The caves described in Freddy and the Dragon are explored by the
animals who soon find themselves lost in an ever-descending maze of passageways.
It is difficult to make sense of the notes which are scrawled on one side
of a 3" X 5" water-spotted, mouse-chewed index card, but they seem
to suggest a hollow earth, an ancient, thriving civilization of superintelligent
ants, a prominent role for Jerry Peters and the Webbs, a connection to
the Martians, and imminent apocalyptic events.
Rating = ??? This one
is impossible to call. It sounds like a mishmash of Jules Verne, Wells, and Burroughs.
I wonder where he was going with this one. Could this have been conceived as the
last book of the Freddy series? It's impossible to date, but Mr. Brooks's
demise shortly after publication of Dragon suggests that it might have
and the Ghost
As it turns out, the ghost of Grandfather Bezaliel is more than a figment
of the imagination. Roused from his peaceful eternal slumber by the shenanigans
in Freddy Goes Camping, Bezaliel rises up for real in this regrettably
unpublished sequel to float about the Bean attic, the barn, the pigpen,
the Big Woods, and Centerboro in a quest for the map to the fortune he
had hidden in his pre-demise days. Initially frightened by the barnyard
materializations of Bezaliel, the animals discover that he means no harm,
and they enthusiastically join the hunt. The Brooks characters based on
Herb Garble and me are the antagonists once again. They discover Bezaliel's
map in a trash-'n-treasure store and plan to loot the fortune. There is
a dramatic haunting of the Underdunk mansion, an ectoplasmic invasion
of "my" real estate office, a midnight race to the location of the treasure
in the Big Woods, and the usual triumph of the animals in a rousing hullabaloo
at the end. Of course Bezaliel turns the treasure over to the Beans,
who use it to buy vacation property for themselves and the animals on
Rating: 5. Good "spirited"
fun! Although Brooks does not feature "real" ghosts in the published Freddy
series, I suspect he had no bias against doing so. After all, we do have, for
better or worse, Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons. The action moves along
briskly, the tag-team villains are inspired, and we easily forgive the improbability
that Bezaliel would have forgotten the location of his fortune.
Frustrated in his attempts at fingerpicking, Freddy lays his guitar down
and, for a time, takes up the steam calliope in Boomschmidt's Circus.
Not satisfied with the simple tunes he is limited to by the nature of
the calliope, Freddy prevails upon Uncle Ben to invent an ingenious contraption
which enables him to produce chords, glissandi, and all sorts of other
effects by pressing single keys with his trotters. At this point, there
are about ninety pages of water-damaged manuscript that I simply could
not tease apart. The next section of readable text concerns the attempts
of Freddy's agent, Mr. Quaver, to cheat him out of his earnings as the
"Piano-Pounding Porker," as Freddy is known on stage. The rest of the
book resolves this conflict as Freddy and Quaver travel from venue to
venue. The only semi-entertaining episode in this plodder involves a bunch
of heckling local yokels who steadfastly refuse to be impressed by a porcine
pianist.. At the conclusion of the story, Freddy gets booked for New Year's
Eve at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Rating: Zero. <Yawn!
vs. Goliath (Marginal
Notes on a New York Central Train Schedule)
All I can make out of this one is that Goliath, a gorilla who has
escaped from a zoo, is discovered hiding in the Bean hayloft. There's
a Mr. Gnasher on Goliath's trail. Freddy and Whibley are somehow going
to be instrumental in Goliath's obtaining his freedom. The Pigasus is
mentioned. The "vs." suggests some initial conflict among the animals,
but what it might be remains unknown.
Rating: ??? Another
hard-to-call one. Doesn't seem very promising. Evidently Brooks, too, recognized
the hopelessness of it. An animal so closely resembling a human being seems
somehow out of place in the Freddy canon, doesn't it?
I believe this to be an early version of To and Again which Brooks
had rejected, but could not bring himself to discard. It starts out with
"Charles, the rooster,..." and ends with the same doggerel: "And however
they wander, both pigs and men/Are always glad to get home again."
But there are significant differences between this manuscript and To
and Again. The animals never reach Florida. Instead they bog down
in Georgia. There are no alligators, no gold, no burglars, no dirty-faced
boy, and no man with a black mustache. There are diamondback rattlesnakes,
quicksand, a hurricane, and poachers. There is a lot of chasing around.
There are narrow escapes. Freddy's tail comes completely uncurled for
perhaps the first time. There is a return home in a brougham.
Rating: 0. The plot
bogs down. It lurches and limps along as though on a wooden leg. It's just "blah,
blah, and more blah." The characters are wooden, too. As banal as To and Again
is, it is much more compelling than this foundering flop. Do you know how you'll
read almost anything to wile away the time when you're stuck in the bathroom?
Believe me, you'd choose the back of the Dixie Cup box over this.
Life and Times of Freddy the Pig (Two
The first volume of this magnum opus is evidently an Encyclopedia
Freddiana of sorts, complete with his lineage, accounts of his early
and late childhood adventures and misadventures, the circumstances of
his arrival at the Bean farm, and a look into his "private life."
We are also given information on all the rest of the Bean farm animal
entourage. The second volume is nonfiction and includes a collection of
many critical reviews of the books and some congratulatory essays contributed
by various literary acquaintances of Mr. Brooks. There is also an entire
chapter devoted to the cryptographic system Brooks employed to conceal
humorous messages and philosophical speculations throughout the series
up to the year 1956 and the publication of Freddy and Simon the Dictator.
Another chapter is a complete list of all the human characters in the
series and Brooks's commentaries on his inspirational sources and his
characterizations. A number of black and white photographs of Centerboro
landmarks accompany this manuscript. Brooks had written extensive notes
on the backs of those photos and clearly meant to include them in a chapter
devoted to the real-life Centerboro. Mention is made of a final chapter
which was to have included many of the Wiese illustrations that hadn't
passed muster for the published series, but there are no such illustrations
included with this manuscript.
I suppose this work would have been of interest to some
Freddyite scholar; however, it seems little more to me than much
more than the little anyone would want to know about the Freddy
series and its foundations. I mean, who cares? I gave it a
"2" instead of a "1" because I find the encryption code both interesting
and useful! I may even use it myself....