I rediscovered Shel Silverstein the other day. By rediscover, I mean I was staring at my bookshelf wondering if I should re-read Harry Potter (decision: no, but I am re-reading Anne of Green Gables) and my eyes happened to fall on my collection of Shel Silverstein books and poems. Funny story – a past sermon reminded me of a Shel Silverstein poem I wanted to blog about and I had it tagged in my browser for the longest time but never got around to it. My blog is a “perfect graveyard of buried drafts.” (If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, you get me.)
I re-read Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back, I re-read The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, and I was surprised by both. You would think that books by a children’s author would have a children’s theme and a children’s moral tacked on; the Silverstein book I always think of is The Giving Tree. Okay, I’m sure there are hidden messages and a complexity that can only be found by the intellectual, but you know, you read it once and you think: wow. Unconditional and sacrificial love, right? Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Appreciate your parents while they are still here because they do so much for you. As you grow older your desires change and that sucks.
I’m totally not insulting The Giving Tree. It’s a great book. Really, it is – and if you are an intellectual you probably have read this book before and you (hopefully) are in the camp of Shel Silverstein admirers and supporters.
But seriously, let’s take a look at The Missing Piece and it’s companion book. I don’t actually own The Missing Piece, only The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (which is such a long name to type out) so I re-read the plot on Wikipedia.
You’d think, that this would be a typical story of finding your “missing piece” and everything would be happy-ever-after, complete circle, perfect fit and all that. But it’s actually not – the “circular animal-like creature” (Wikipedia’s description) eventually decides to put down his missing piece because he misses doing all the things that he could do when he was by himself. This is not a happy ending! He doesn’t end up with his soulmate! What is going on!
It’s interesting, because even as an “adult” reading these books, I definitely just expected him to end up with his soulmate. Even in The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, I expected him to find the circle he fits with. But he doesn’t, and I wonder what I thought when I was reading this as a little kid. (Funny story 2: I think I did this book for a oral book report, because I found a notecard taped to the back that my mom had helped me write out what I was going to say and different points to make. Either that, or it was during that stage where I pretended to be on Reading Rainbow, at the end, where the kids come out and talk about books.)
Anyways, yes, I know now that in order to be in a relationship you must be able to survive on your own and blah blah, that’s the only way to be in a healthy relationship. And I am once again reminded that I am firmly in the camp of Shel Silverstein admirers and that his stories have messages that appeal to adults and kids alike.
But the really puzzling questions came at the end of Lafcadio – which tells the story of lion who becomes a sharpshooter, moves to the city to become a performer, and tries to go back to the jungle after facing a midlife crisis – does he ever figure out who he is? Does he forever wander around by himself, trying to decide if he is a man or a lion?
I like that the book ends with loose ends, but at the same time, I wish that it didn’t. It would be nice to know the lesson, wrapped up neatly with a bow, so that I could somehow use it to figure out who I am. But I cannot – which probably teaches me something about life too…