I’ve been revisiting one of my favorite books – The Rambillicus Book, by Walt McDougall.
The book was originally published in 1903, and I’m pretty sure that besides recent dubious editions cobbled together from scans, it’s the only time it was printed. It’s in public domain, so publishers are gonna publish, but at least have some fucking pride in your work.
Walt McDougall was a cartoonist. Among other things, he also illustrated a comic strip called Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz (based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz books), and wrote a “Lost Race” style science fiction novel at one point.
But, The Rambillicus Book.
The Rambillicus Book contains stories about children encountering many mythical animals, including the Benevolent Rambillicus, who lives in the forest, and is laden with snacks, and treats, which he shares with good children. Other animals in the book include the Delicatessen, the Skimolix, the hairy Ultimatum, and the ring-tailed Hyossimus.(If you’re familiar with the 1929 song On The Amazon by Bobby Howes – later recorded by Don McLean and also Bobby Short, but not New Riders on the Purple Sage, you’ll get what McDougall is doing here.)
Revisiting this has made me debate whether to record me reading chapters of it each day, and posting them. There are, naturally, a few outdated and less than polite terms for occasional ethnicities, but overall the book is fun and clever. The book is from 1903. I’m not particularly inclined to be offended. It is, however, making me uncertain as to whether or not to proceed with recording. I just don’t have time or space for bullshit over this. I hate “trigger warnings” (I prefer the term “spoiler alert”), and I really fucking hate censorship.
These are the words McDougall wrote over 100 years ago. And they’re probably not the ones you’re immediately thinking of, either.
The other thing that’s making me reluctant, is that in rereading passages today, my internal version of McDougall’s voice somehow shifted from “jovial older man telling tall tales to delight children” to “Tom Waits.”
I really really really want to hear Tom Waits read this book.
<Tom Waits>“He is something like a hippopotamus in shape, but has a hide ornamented with a basketwork pattern. He is hollow inside and simply loaded with good things, his cargo varying with the season, of course. In summer, ice cream, cakes, pies, pretzels, fruit, soda water, lemonade, pickles, doughnuts, and other dainties… his tail is a pump for either cider or lemonade as you may desire, and there are more ways of getting things out of him than I could remember to tell about.” </Tom Waits>
Can’t unhear it, can you?
So, while I vacillate on recording this and posting it, and holding off until I locate Tom Waits (he’s sort of local, and I know of a place he’s rumored to hang out when we’re not all socially distancing), I’ll give you a link where you can read it yourself.