K is for Konigsburg

Konigsburg illustration
And she's great!

Okay, that's the end of the post.

No, not really. 

Konigsburg wrote many books, among them The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, for which she won the Newbury and the Newbury Honor awards. (She achieved the Newbury again over twenty years later for a View from Saturday.) In anticipation of this post, I read her last book The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World and was surprised at how quickly I sped through it; at seventy-seven, Konigsburg hadn't lost her knack for an unusual premise with interesting characters.

The Mixed-Up Files is one of my favorite children's books. My mother read it to me in my youth before I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My eventual visit there was highly influenced by me trying to spot all the places the brother and sister visited from the fountain to the restaurant to the four-poster bed.

Konigsburg also wrote a lesser known book of which I am quite fond: (George). It is the story of a young teen, Ben, who has an imaginary friend--George--who says all the sarcastic things that he never says. George is also quite witty and insightful, Hobbes to an introverted Calvin.

The marvelous thing about this book is that although the young man worries that he might be a bit strange and/or sent in for counseling, the author's solution is not to get him "fixed" (sticking with the big cat theme there). The author's solution is to have George and Benjamin's personalities mesh as he gets older. After all, George--like Hobbes--lends ballast and confidence to Benjamin's observant nature.

I think that sometimes people forget that although our culture has gotten more tolerant in the past thirty-odd years, it has lost some tolerance too. Nowadays, everybody has to have a label!

Ben and George don't.

As a person who actually considered buying a Bluetooth, so she wouldn't look crazy working out character dialog out loud in her car, I totally approve.


Joe said...

I loved the recording we had of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler when we were kids. Do you remember who made it?

Katherine Woodbury said...

I remember listening to that recording! Can't recall the narrator, only that she had a very dry tone.

An abridged version was put out in record format in 1969 in celebration of Konigsburg winning the Newbery. The earliest, complete version I could locate on WorldCat was made by the Listening Library. The reader for the Listening Library version is Jan Miner. The Portland library has this version! I'll check it out (literally and figuratively). There's also a much more recent version whose reader is Jill Clayburgh.

Side note: The book has been made into movies twice; the first starred Ingrid Bergman as Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the second starred Lauren Bacall as the eponymous character. I've seen the second and remember thinking it was okay. But interestingly enough, I'm not sure Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is the most captivating element--it's the museum!

Joe said...

I really liked Lauren Bacall as the titular character, but remember nothing else about that movie.

I have another six months of audio books and then I may add this one. (We also had a recording of Jungle Book, which I really liked.)

Joe said...

I now have a vague memory that the record was a dramatization. Could it have been the 1973 Bergman soundtrack, edited down slightly?

Katherine Woodbury said...

The 1969 version is listed as a "dramatization." On older records, this can mean a, well, dramatization but it can sometimes just mean that the thing was read aloud. The narrator of the 1969 version is listed as Aurora Dias Jorgensen.

If the time frame wasn't off, I would swear that it was Lauren Bacall, only because of the narrator's sardonic wit. On the other hand, I just reread the book, and the writing by its nature invites that kind of narration.