Ah, the dog days of summer…
Is your family hot and cranky? Crammed together in a car for the long ride home? Has boredom set in, despite the thousands of Pokémon still at large?
Uncle Shelby himself kicks things off with an invitation to all dreamers, wishers, liars, hopers, pray-ers, magic-bean-buyers, and pretenders.
That net seems sufficiently wide to encompass just about everyone, even (especially!) the sullen teen who wasn’t allowed to stay home by him or herself.
Silverstein did not subscribe to the dry narrative style that E.B.White used to such great effect on the audiobook of Charlotte’s Web.
Instead, he cracks himself up, hissing, yipping and howling his way through Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. A veteran of Off-Broadway and the author of over a hundred one-act plays, Silverstein clearly relished performing his own work.
(As evidence, we submit “Warning,” an instructional poem concerning the sharp-toothed snail dwelling inside every human nose.)
His unhinged gusto is doubly pleasing when one recalls the attempts to ban his work from libraries and elementary schools due to the presence of demons, devils, ghosts, and a manipulative little girl who makes good on her threat to die if her parents won’t buy her a pony.
The back end of the playlist is a testament to the poet’s musical abilities. Perhaps the best known song in his massive catalog is Johnny Cash’s hit “A Boy Named Sue,” above. In addition to Cash and Silverstein’s own hoarse tenor, you’ll encounter the likes of Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare and longtime Silverstein collaborator Dr. Hook.
My only regret is the absence of my personal favorite Silverstein poem …it seems unlikely that such a track exists, but I do love imagining the havoc it could wreak in the family car. Children, don’t forget your eggs.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her latest script, Fawnbook, is available in a digital edition from Indie Theater Now. Follow her @AyunHalliday.