needs more demons?

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Michael Bond: Paddington Here and Now

26 Aug 2012 · No Comments

Bond’s Paddington reminds me a smidge of Wodehouse’s Wooster in that after reading a few stories, the template is so nakedly obvious that you might almost think you could produce one yourself: Paddington, well intentioned but unpossessed of sound judgement, mishears and/or misconstrues something and acts foolishly. Dark looks are exchanged, cocoa is drunk, things are exclaimed hotly, it’s difficult with paws, and Mr. Curry frequently roars “Bear!” before everything is sorted.

But as with Wodehouse, the magic of Bond’s tales doesn’t lie in the easily imitated aspects. The rhythm of Bond’s prose has a comforting familiarity, but what really makes it work, I think, is the reader’s peculiar orientation with respect to Paddington: outside him enough to clearly perceive his folly, but inside him enough to see with equal clarity how his misconceptions arose. It’s a very delicate balance.

Paddington buying bottled water and riding the London Eye makes me sad; it seems unfair to the bear to drag him into a new century. To me, Paddington belongs in some ill-defined, improbably innocent mid-last-century decade free of the spectre or aftermath of war. I have no wish to see him age, but bringing him forward half a century with no changes introduces an unpleasant note of cognitive dissonance, like the panels in which Watterson portrays Calvin’s pal Hobbes as a lifeless, limp, stuffed thing.

But thankfully, obtrusively modern details mar only a handful of these stories. Mostly — particularly when the magnificently unpleasant Mr. Curry is on the scene — I chuckle, I snort, I guffaw. I’m swept up, once more, in the unlikely exploits of the winsome bear from “Darkest Peru.”

needs more demons? no.

Tags: b-author · children's · p-title

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