Thursday, October 06, 2011

Guest-Posted! Jonoseyo, Peter Nimble, and Welcome, readers of The Scop

Welcome, readers of The Scop, who may have come here after reading my guest-post on Jonathan Auxier's blog. If you're a fan of Jonathan Auxier, because you're a fan of Peter Nimble, and you're younger than age fifteen or so, I have to warn you that sometimes this blog uses big words, and sometimes it uses bad words like the "h" word or the "d" word (and I don't mean "happy" and "dinosaur")... but I'll make sure this post is squeaky-clean, or warn you.

And hello, my regular readers. I'm excited to tell you about this...

Jonathan Auxier was my very best male friend in university: we participated in comedy improv together, we got all pretentious together (both English lit majors) and generated a huge network of interrelated and absurdist inside jokes with surprising speed. Jonathan is the best yo-yo-er I've ever (knowingly) met, the second best player of "Zip-Bong" (a game I still play when I'm teaching kids) and I'm not sure why, but when I'm talking to him, I'm somehow better with words than I am at any other time. Being around him just helps me turn a phrase.

After graduating, Jon went to Carnegie-Mellon University for a masters' in Fine Arts in writing, and I came to Korea. We kinda drifted apart. But thankfully we re-connected recently.

Jonathan invited me to write a guest-post at his blog after we had a discussion there (also check my long comment) about Harry Potter, and why I felt let down by Harry Potter's performance as a hero: I love the Harry Potter books - really love them - but found that Harry's final victory left me cold. In the meantime, I've discovered my new favorite hero journey: Aang's journey, in Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" So go read my post at The Scop about why. Aang might be the most likable protagonist I've ever seen (he matches Harry Potter in the first three books in likability - before Harry gets all sullen and resentful of...everything), but Aang has a resolution that's way more satisfying to me than Harry's.

Jonathan and I both dreamed of writing books back in our glorious, handsome, long-armed days of youth, and part of the reason he's started his website, "The Scop" (Scop is an old word for storyteller) is because Abrams just published his debut novel, "Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes."

(book trailer - did you know books had trailers?)

Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes is a great debut novel. Peter is a blind thief - the world's greatest thief - and a ten-year-old boy, who breaks into a mysterious haberdasher's wagon, and steals a box which he discovers to contain three pairs of magical eyes. When he puts the first pair of eyes in his empty sockets, he is magically swept off to a mysterious place, and has high, swashbuckling adventures that are full of revelations, surprises, sly references to other children's classics (Peter Pan's Lost Boys, meet The Missing Ones). For your token Korea reference of the day (because this is a Korea blog), there is an evil king whom Peter eventually must confront, and he uses a surprisingly similar method of controlling his enslaved population as North Korea's Kim Jong-Il and his propaganda machine: force-feeding his people lies about how happy they are under his rule until they believe them. 

The book includes Jonathan Auxier's own drawings (as does his blog: if you do something really awesome, sometimes he draws a picture for/of you) and the whole story is presented by a winking narrator who is never funnier than when (he?) directly addresses his audience... one of my very few gripes about the book, which I think is an absolute winner, is that I wish I could have heard more of the narrator's hilarious/witty/unexpected thoughts on topics. The action was exciting, but other books also have action... I kept waiting for the totally unique narrator's voice to throw that one extra layer of self-referential fun on top of the action, like the rug that ties the room together. (Warning: this video clip includes a Very Bad Word that your parents don't want you to say... so don't click on the link if you don't want to hear it.) Sometimes I got the gently-tossed narrator's bulls-eyes I hoped for, and sometimes I didn't. Part of the reason I wanted the book to go on longer, was so that I could hang out more with that narrator.

Take that single gripe with a grain of salt in the exact shape of this fact: Jon is a friend of mine from of old, so perhaps I simply miss his voice because he's my friend, and I'm reading this book partly as a friend of Mr. Auxier's, and not purely as a reader of books. Maybe his editor disagrees with me. Or twelve-year-old readers. Maybe most readers wouldn't go "More of Jonathan Auxier! Less of that Peter Nimble fellow" in a book about Peter Nimble... but I did, strange as that is.
(image from Jonathan's own website: looks like the friend I remember)

However, I'll say unequivocally that Jonathan Auxier has grown to become quite an excellent writer, and it is clear that he has worked extremely hard on crafting a book that is quite nearly perfect, and that doesn't show off how hard he must have worked on it (because that's the greatest trick good writers can do: a good writer can spend hours getting a sentence just perfect, but when you read it, it seems like it just popped into their head. The hardest working writers make their effort invisible.)

Now that I have his readers and friends attention for this one post, I'm going to dish up one juicy story from his past: at one point, Jonathan decided to start reading the dictionary, from cover to cover, in order to find all those lovely, delicious words that are fun to say, or that perfectly describe something that's difficult to describe, but aren't very common. Well, he'd started on that task when he handed me a manuscript he wanted me to critique. The story was good... but it was loaded, loaded with very obscure words that, while they perfectly described their various situations, needed to be looked up in a dictionary. The funny thing is, because Jonathan had just started his quest to read the dictionary from cover to cover, the obscure and wonderful words in the story all started with "A," "B," or "C"!

Photo on 2011-10-06 at 12.26

Jonathan Auxier's book, "Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes" is an abomasal book, and if you visit the website for the book:, you can see that Peter Nimble will answer your questions, but you will also see (events) that if you decide to study "Peter Nimble" with your class before next February, you can have a free skype visit with the author, Jonathan Auxier. Some of my regular readers may teach young students who are middle-school-level readers, who might just LOVE this book (Jonathan describes it as the book he wished somebody'd handed him when he was in middle school)... and it'd be fun making Jon stay up late to skype-visit a class of students in Korea.

One last thing: another benefit of re-connecting with Jonathan is that his writing on The Scop (which often discusses being a teller and lover of stories) led me to discover Cockeyed Caravan, which is a blog by a writer named Matt Bird, that should be read by anybody who dreams of telling stories for a living, whether that's books, televeision, or screen. I know Korea's expat scene is loaded with people working on their novel or screenplay, so go subscribe to him, too.

Disclosure: I received no compensation of any kind for the guest-post I wrote, or for writing this glowingly positive post, for Mr. Auxier. Other than the short thank-you e-mail he sent me.


Dad said...

I read the book & loved it.

Rebecca said...

My sister gave this to my daughter for her birthday right after it came out, and the whole family devoured it. I love the insightful comments as well, though I found many of them in the Professor's voice. Kudos to Jon and thanks for the post, Roboseyo!

Jonathan Auxier said...

Too many fancy words?! Why, only an acephalous cretin would be flummoxed by my melliflous prose!

Thank you again for your wonderful post on The Scop ... and for this kind review and trip down memory lane. You are missed on the western hemisphere.


Deb said...

Only a SHORT thank - you eh? For shame! I've recommended this book to my mother-in-law (an elementary school principal) and our school librarian - great book!