Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Book Review: Water, Water Everywhere

Sigh. This blog should fall into receivership given its lack of attention. With all the energy in the household, I am dismayed that the job of rekindling the blog fire falls to a tired old professor. Being tired and old and a professor, this post shall consist primarily of a book review.

Defying all expectations, the number of books read in this household has skyrocketed in the past few months. Harriet still reads weather-beaten paperback mysteries to fall asleep, but she reads fewer and fewer pages each night. Ozzie's bookshelf is full of classic works of literature, but I have yet to see him read one. Needless to say, Ricky is the source of the literary renaissance in the household.

I had hoped that I could tutor young Ricky to be a young scholar; well versed in the classics. It would be unreasonable to expect an infant to understand Habermas. Aristotle is a more reasonable starting point. Alas, Ricky shows no taste for the ancient Greeks. My beloved Penguin edition of The Politics has been chewed and torn, but never engaged intellectually.

One hypothesis I considered was that non-fiction may be too dry to hold the attention of those under the age of 2. I briefly entertained visions of reading Ricky Don Quixote and The Inferno. These classic tales should grip the imagination of intellectuals of all ages. Sadly, these books were cast aside for a plastic phone whose pathetic refrain is "I love you, so much!" Upon being rudely rebuffed, I concluded that Ricky is not a scholar.

Being a good empiricist, I watched Ricky over several days and noticed that he does in fact read many books. I use the term "book" loosely, as Ricky enjoys books with parts to grab and pull and generally use a toy rather than as a conduit of knowledge. The only exception to this rule of grabbing and interacting were the books Ricky reads in the bathtub. These books are smooth with nothing more than words and pictures. Ricky will sit mesmerized by these books for minutes on end, flipping forward and back with intense concentration. So I decided to pick up one of the works and read it cover to cover.

After spending the two minutes it took to read the book, I concluded that Water, Water, Everywhere is about as far from The Old Man and the Sea as is humanly possible. I fear that statement is inaccurate since only a corporation could create an abomination such as Water, Water, Everywhere. For there is no "author". Rather the "concept" came from Julie Aigner-Clark. I will not judge the quality of Ms. Aigner-Clark's concept for it may have been botched in execution by Baby Einstein (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

The irony and literary allusion in the title promises an engaging read. I thought the Baby Einstein company was slyly referencing Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner's "Water, water, everywhere nor any drop to drink." The quote would be apropos given that the book is intended to be read in the bathtub and one should not drink bath water. Sadly, the title is the highlight of the book.

The rhymes are insipid, the meter is inconsistent, and the punctuation is atrocious. Dashes and elipses are used in places where periods would clearly suffice with no hint of poetic intent behind the grammatical faux pas. Here is the first page reprinted in its entirety:

Water, water everywhere ...
Water, near and far --
Let's use our hands and feet to count
How many kinds there are!

The last line is a red herring in that there is nothing to count in the six pages of text that follow. Given such tight constraints on verbiage, one cannot afford to waste lines on topics that are never pursued. On second thought, the space would simply be used for over wrought prose that should never have been written in the first place so relevance is besides the point. For example,

Waterfalls with misty breath
Whisper as they flow ...
Frozen water turns to ice,
And flakes form out of snow.

Flakes do not form out of snow. Snow is a crystalline aggregate of water ice crystals that often have hexagonal symmetry. That is, a flake. And while I am hardly puritanical, I am not entirely sure that I want young Ricky reading about whispering "misty breath."

In summary, I do not highly recommend Water, Water, Everywhere and cannot fathom why Ricky reads such rubbish.


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