Wednesday 24 August 2011

Daniel Pinkwater's Lizard Music - Review by Wendy Meddour

Published by France Lincoln (April 2011) Hbk. £9.99

About the book:

When Victor's parents go away for two weeks, leaving his older sister in charge, he is glad when she takes off on a vacation of her own. Home alone, Victor can do anything he wants. He stays up late, eats his pizza with anchovies, visits the zoo, and enjoys his favourite TV news programme without interruption. It is while staying up late watching television that he discovers evidence of a secret community of intelligent lizards. In fact there seems to have been an invasion from outer space that went almost unnoticed! In the course of some detective work, he meets the Chicken Man, an eccentric with a hen in his hat who knows about these things. Together they visit the lizards in Thunderbolt City.

Lizard Music is a weird and wonderful book. It begins in a fairly conventional way: the narrator – a young boy called Victor – unexpectedly finds himself home alone. His bickering parents have gone to Colorado to ‘try and sort things out’ whilst his big sister, bored with ‘babysitting’ duties, has gone camping in Cape Cod. And so Victor falls into a daily routine of ready-made meals and late night movies. But something has disturbed him. Who are the strange lizards that play haunting music after the horror shows? They’re not in the TV listings. Has earth been invaded? In his effort to find out, Victor encounters the ‘chicken man’- an amazing character who spouts philosophy and keeps a chicken under his hat. The chicken man starts to turn up everywhere and seems to know about everything. Even the lizards! Guided by Claudia (an intelligent hen), Victor and the chicken man embark on a journey into the ‘other world’ – the place where the lizards live.

Not many writers could make this seemingly crazy plot work. But Daniel Pinkwater's not just any writer. He has an incredible talent for making us question the everyday. In his hands, the absurd seems plausible and the plausible absurd. The lizards are a civilised community – they follow ‘schedules’ and are guided by the ‘truth’. Humans, are the other hand, are a far more worrying species (especially as seen through Victor’s eyes). As the chicken man explains, many of them ‘go through the motions of being human without really meaning or understanding it.’

Despite being first published 1976, Lizard’s Music is fresh, witty, original and thought-provoking. It’s a clever book that calls for clever readers. And like so many of the best works of fiction – it makes us question what it means to be human.


1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

Sounds an intriguing idea written well - especially those lizards. Thank you for this suggesting this title, Wendy.

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