Friday, April 29, 2011

Beverly Cleary

I am sure I tried to read Beverly Cleary's memoirs back in the day. Ramona Quimby is one of my favorite characters in all of fiction. I love the books about Ramona, and while I only owned Ramona Quimby, Age 8, I checked the others out from the library over and over. I also read Cleary's other books multiple times--Ralph S. Mouse was so important for a while, and Leigh Botts, the hero of Dear Mr. Henshaw, still is very important.

But I must have started the first memoir, A Girl From Yamhill, and just found it boring. I don't think I ever made it as far as My Own Two Feet, which is a lot better. A Girl From Yamhill is Cleary's early memories of living in Yamhill on a farm--until she's like six--and then her life in Portland until she goes away to college.

So I think I never made it out of Yamhill. The part of the first memoir that takes place in Portland is more interesting. Cleary had to memorize one hundred lines of poetry of her own choice, every year of high school! Awesome.

Cleary talks about how they read Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" and were inspired to write their own:
Shipper of wheat,
Grower of roses.

Feller of trees,
Catcher of salmon.
She was obviously totally my kind of nerd in high school too; she and her best friend Claudine studied their The Century Handbook of Writing and worked the examples of "faulty diction" into their conversations.
Our conversation became sprinkled with gleeful vulgarisms we had never used before. When I announced my presence by noisily tap-dancing on the Klums' wooden porch and probably annoying all the neighbors on the block, Claudine said she was nowhere near ready for school.

"I suspicioned you weren't."

Claudine's reply was something like, "This here shoe-lace broke."
Later, Beverly is dating a boy she isn't that into, and when he kisses her, "Being kissed by Gerhart was disappointing. I had expected a kiss to feel more like the time in Yamhill when I stuck my finger in the electric socket, only nice."

She chooses to recite "Patterns" by Amy Lowell for a dramatics class, which cracks me up. When Beverly rehearses it, Claudine says, "Wow! You're sure brave!"

I'm still reading My Own Two Feet, and loving it. "How terribly--I pulled a word from my reading vocabulary that I had never spoken--risqué. Black lace underwear! Gosh!"

No comments: