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Poem for October

STORIES

It was just a story after all, but a pretty good one... I thought... told by unlettered ancient nomads... and retold. This was the glory of a verbal tradition. No one knew who first told the story, but in the constant retelling, the story was perfected... not elaborated, but perfected in its simplicity. It told of a beautiful garden wherein the first man and first woman were created. And in the garden grew two trees with magic fruit. One was the tree of KNOWLEDGE whose fruit, when eaten, would bestow upon the mortals knowledge equivalent to that of the gods. The second, the tree of LIFE, could bestow immortality. Just a story, of course, but one that everyone still knows. The Creator of the man and the woman said the tree of KNOWLEDGE was forbidden. If they ate of it, they would be expelled from the garden and so lose access to the tree of LIFE and surely die. We know the ending. They disobeyed, ate the forbidden fruit, were expelled, and all mankind suffered mortality thereafter. It’s just a story, of course, but its details, imagery, and even its humor, are impressive story telling. The joke, for instance, that Woman comes from Man’s rib, a kind of reverse pregnancy myth allowing men... forever thereafter born of and indebted to women for their creation... to say, “Well sure, but originally you’re from our stomach.” Any more evidence of Male ego needed? Not really. Or, if the story is incorporating the seven spiritual centers, chakras, of the human spine, it may imply that Woman, sprung from a higher chakra, is the more spiritual of the two. Works for me. But then there is the marked misogyny of the Creator who ordains that the woman’s “desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” proof surely of a male story teller either himself misogynistic or reporting a primitive male/female condition that looked ordained to him.  (Warning: do not quote God to Wifey on this point nowadays.)

And then the symbol of DUST is neatly woven throughout the tale. The Creator scoops a handful of dust blowing His own breath of life into it to create the two, resulting in beings both physical and spiritual. Satan, who persuades the two to eat the forbidden fruit, is punished by being turned to a legless serpent. “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all thy days,” says the Creator, putting the taint of evil on the dust or physical half of the pair as well. And finally as they are expelled from the garden, the Creator reminds them, “For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” It’s just a story, of course, but a nice use of imagery, irony, myth, and symbolism. Almost poetry, indeed written... when they at last acquired writing... in verses.

And so the story endured, told and retold for two thousand years, till Christian poets used it to imagine a more loving Creator’s forgiveness of disobedient mankind by restoring access to the Tree of Life in the person of Christ on His tree (the cross), Himself the recovered access to Life everlasting. It’s just a story, of course, but one now surviving another two thousand years, recounted each December when we place Jesus on His cross atop the magic tree of Life in our living rooms. Just a story perhaps, but one with real legs.

Devotees of the Tree of KNOWLEDGE have had their champions too. Its latest, greatest practitioner, no doubt, was Albert E. of 20th century fame who hoped to give us nothing less than the THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Using the knowledge tools of Math and Science, he set out to crack the stuff and matter of things physical. Devotees of dust, you might say, he and his colleagues devised methods of hurling dust at dust busting the dust to ever finer, tinier dust, like children ransacking a Cracker Jack horde to find the hidden prize. Unhappily no prize lay in that direction. In Math the precision their numbers lapsed into the merely PROBABLE, their Physics into UNCERTAINTY... a story without legs. (But at least they gave us a bomb.) Other of their colleagues, stymied in the Micro-world, looked to the Macro. JFK gave them money to sail to the moon, an adventure story that lasted eight years, till Neil Armstrong made his great leap and felt his boot sink its print forever into... what was that stuff? Dust? We went back to the moon once or twice before giving it up altogether. “To heck with the moon then,” said the men of KNOWLEDGE, “we will sail on to Mars”... though unmanned probes there found nothing but more dust. It’s all dreams and stories and hard sometimes to give up, but NASA is now quietly... and correctly... folding its tent. Let Elon Musk and the Russian kleptocracy spend their billions on space follies. The American taxpayer should pay not another nickel. Kurt Vonnegut was a pretty good story teller; his spacemen soon met space/time’s CRONO-SYNCLASTIC INFUNDIBULUM, which said in effect to mankind, “What makes you think you’re going anywhere.”

So here we are, mortal children still, back in the Garden, over which we were given dominion and commanded, as good gardeners, to tend, keep, and renew it. It’s just a story, of course, but one we might heed if only for its persistence. There is no knowledge prize, no theory of everything beneath the Cracker Jacks or inside the dust, but there are still stories. It’s all dreams and stories after all. Call them stories, dreams, ideas, thoughts, or concepts, but not TRUTH, not REALITY. These are not in our gift. And poets always were the best story-tellers. They haven’t a story of everything, but they can help us dream our own private stories, as each of us must. Poetic imagination offers no final Wisdom, which is for the best, as good God! What we do if we had it? But imagination can entertain us on the dark journey, and like the ancient nomads or Emily D, help us dream of “night’s possibility.”

 


 

To Order

"Teeny and the Whale" Acclaimed

"The Teeny stories are remarkable tales, both funny and intellectual. Slade is a very understanding man and captures the reader with humor and art. I give it ten stars."
Maggie Osterbauer, '03

"Schuster's work is amazing! He is wise beyond his years, and that's high praise."
Eric Vidrine, '03

"Teeny and the Whale" is a masterpiece plumbing the ocean-depths of the human psyche."
James Byron, '03

"Mr. Schuster's droll wit and Mike Sooy's artistry make for a raucous romp through adolescence and the unconscious."
Ars Azam, '03

"Slade's combination of wry humor and sound moral instruction make his volume worth twice what I paid for it!"
Brian Libby, History Dept.




To Order

Critical Reviews of Teeny's Travels

"This fantastical world of Zander-snitches, horrid harpies, and blimple stones will be a source of pride to heroic teenagers everywhere . . . as long as they have a dead ear for irony."
Sonja Johnson '88

"Oh, the droll, drooling days of adolescence! What exactly are these minds we are concerned to mold? Slade lays it all before us. Here you have it, Dude!"
Molly Gilbert, Admissions

"A terrific poem describing a typical, modern teenager (I think it's Brett Wallnutt) on the symbolic journey of life, the same journey we have read this year in ancient tales."
Samira Abu-Ghazaleh '01

"Teeny's Travel's" is an exhilarating, verse tale delving into the adventures of an average, nutty teenager, probably Brett Wallnutt."
Chad Mayfield '01

"This is one of the greatest works of our times. Teeny is a complex, intricate, fascinating hero . . . as am I."
Brett Wallnutt '01


To Order

Readers Rave for "Teeny!"

Teeny is an hilarious character, portrayed perfectly to relate to young adults. Well worth reading! Very clever! Very funny!
- Ruthie Sudderth, '02

Finally, a story that lays open the truth about adolescence: materialism, power, and sloth. Things come to closure, Chaucer. The curtain is closing, Shakespeare. Move over, Freud. Slade is here!
- Lars Jensen, '02

This is why Schuster's Teeny Series is so critically acclaimed.
- Stephen Van Pelt, '02

A comical tale of teenhood and the complete idiot's guide to Christian selflessness.
- Erik Thunem, '02

An exemplary tale that warns teens of the "hockey" generation to be cautious when touching "pastry." It will grate the nerves of the boorish adolescent, but touch the heart strings of "special" students who interest themselves in literature.
- Mary Stenson, '02

The Legends

Teeny's Travels reprises the "wasteland theme" which informs so many ancient, medieval, and modern tales, including Oedipus and Hamlet. In this story line, a youthful hero on a spiritual quest enters a strange land wasted by a plague afflicting vegetal, animal, and human vitality. The hero visits the castle of the doomed country where he finds an ailing king. The king's infirmity is the source of the plague (king and country being magically one vitality), and it is the hero's task to restore the king's vigor by curing or replacing the ailing king. The king, though infirm, is wise and can grant the hero a vision of the spiritual truth if he judges the young man's heart to be pure. In medieval versions, the vision often involves the mystic grail or sword (inverted cross) of Christian import. At the moment of revelation, the hero must make a correct response, often by asking the right question. Quests imply a climactic question. The hero fails to cure the wasteland as often as he succeeds, but the moral lesson is imparted as forcefully in either case. "By men who won't be taught by other men, shall other men be taught."

Teeny and the Green Knight satirizes a long, 14th-century poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," written in Middle English by an unknown author, a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. In it an untested, young hero is confronted by a giant, green horse and rider. The menacing figure challenges Gawain to cut off the green man's head with an axe. However, Gawain must first agree to visit the green giant's domain within a year and have his own head hewn off. Fair is fair. Gawain accepts, seizes the ax, and chops off the man's head. The adventure that follows is marvelous, ominous, full of Christian lore, but not without its humorous implications. Gawain's honor, bravery, and chastity are sorely tested by several trials, most but not all of which he passes. Narrowly escaping death, Gawain returns home, as spiritual heroes must, with a boon, prize, elixir, symbol, or code to enrich his society. Gawain's prize is a simple, green garter, the meaning of which, were it imparted, would benefit young men in any society, especially our own. The Gawain story is the source of a knightly order still revered in England and awarded by her monarchs, the order of the garter.

Teeny and the Whale, like most whale, great fish, or monster-of-the-deep stories (Jonah, Leviathan, Pinocchio, Moby Dick), has a symbolic interpretation. Read psychologically, water (the deep) represents the unconscious, dark regions of the hero's psyche, from which the monster rises to menace him. The monster, of course, is the unmastered excess of the hero's own ego (hubris). Male hubris is the tragic flaw that again and again these tales are concerned to render. As long as the hero remains unaware of the danger his own desires pose (as human desires have no bounds), he will be dragged under and devoured. When he masters fully his own nature, he will rise up and walk upon the flood unhindered. As Thomas a Kempis says, "Know that the love of thyself doth hurt thee more than anything in the world. Forsake and resign thyself, and thou shalt enjoy much inward peace." Teeny is a failed hero in all three adventures.



To Order

Alumni Review

"Straight River Anthology is an insight into the heart and mind of the great Slade. We all wondered what was going on in his head during high school. This is your chance to find out."
Sara Huntley, class of '94

"Slade captures the sublime in everyday occurrences. I enjoy his poetry immensely."
Bob Irby, class of '60

"Slade's poetry isn't Classical...or Romantic...or even Modern (thank God), but it often makes me laugh, sometimes cry (a bitter tear...no loud boo-hooing) and mostly reminds me that the Grim Reaper lurks behind every tree like a boogie-man in the park. Jus'skidding! You must have this book!"
Sonja Johnson, class of '88

"I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poems, a glimpse at the quirky yet intriguing Mr. Schuster. My favorite,"Violins," perfectly shares the unique and amazing experiences this school offers; the emotion this poem conveys is truly touching."
Katie Simonson, class of '01

"I don't read poetry, and if Slade's mortgage is indeed twice his monthly pay, you'd be a fool to feed that monkey. Nevertheless, I bought some copies of his book. One levels the game table in my basement; the other is shimming the bar fridge."
Tim Gillin, class of '68



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Rare!
Samuel Johnson Collection

For Sale (16 volumes total): $19,900.00


A Dictionary of the English Language
by Samuel Johnson
London
printed by W. Strahan
MDCCLV (1755)

FIRST EDITION, with contemporary boards (1755), restored spines and a double signature at 19K, considered the most pristine copy one book dealer had seen in his career of selling Johnsonalia.


Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the
WORKS OF THE ENGLISH POETS
by Samuel Johnson
London
Printed by J. Nichols (in ten volumes)
MDCCLXXIX (1779)


The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
by James Boswell, Esq.
The third edition, Revised and Augmented,
in Four Volumes
London
Printed by H. Baldwin and Son
MDCCXCIX (1799)