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Where Did I Go Wrong?

If one lives long enough (or too long), as I surely have, there comes a day when one must honestly face the question, painful though it may be: WHERE EXACTLY DID I GO WRONG? Having given this question my best shot for a week now, I find that ... in my case ... the answer lies squarely in the simple tales given us as moral guidance by our well-meaning but thoughtless parents when we were helpless, nursery tale innocents.

Take, for example, the short and sweet TORTOISE and HARE story which pretends to teach what, on its face, is a terrific lie that must confuse every child ... the lie that the slow TORTOISE always beats the speedy HARE. Even the most backward child has experienced schoolyard and playground footraces of all sorts. Does the slowest even occasionally win? No! The slowest never wins, period. Yet in this anecdote, we were taught to think SLOW PLODDING progress wins the race. But it was never clear what went wrong with the speedy HARE who took off like a shot it was said, but somehow lost. Did the HARE go in the wrong direction, did he run in circles, did he veer away at the finish line for no known reason? No clear answer. Was it PLODDING that was recommended here? It surely couldn’t be SLOWNESS, could it? So we learned to PLOD. Thanks mom and dad.

Then there was that merry rhyme HEY, DIDDLE, DIDDLE, we all learned by rote. What innocent fun: a cat and a fiddle, a moon-jumping cow, and a laughing little dog, and then ... out of the blue: THE DISH RAN AWAY WITH THE SPOON. That sudden, bizarre trope was designed to stick with us like gorilla glue until puberty where it could do its real damage. Was this act a romantic elopement or an out-and-out snatch-and-grab theft. ROMANCE or LARCENY? Concepts too convoluted for a child, but even with maturity fraught with ambiguities on a moral and sexual scale troublesome to the adolescent as well. If an elopement, was the DISH the male or the female? “Ran away with” could suggest either. If the DISH is more bowl-like in its concavity, that’s definitely a female symbol ... and the SPOON could then be phallic. But “to spoon” and “spooning” suggest a less aggressive sexuality, also female. Are these in fact TWO females, prefiguring from my childhood in 1940s an omen of the LGBTQ era to come. My parents weren’t THAT savvy, but some Hans Christian Anderson rhymester may have been, long before mum and daddy. Which, regarding Hans, brings to mind this double dactyl rhyme on HIS sexuality:

HIGGLEDY PIGGLEDY
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON
SAT WITH SOME TOW-HEADED
BOYS ON A SHELF.

MYTHO-POETICALLY
MAKING UP FAIRY-TALES
AIDED IN KEEPING HIS
HANS TO HIMSELF.

And the DISH and SPOON ambiguity was not the only childhood tale that left me brooding, confused, and afraid of life generally.

The JACK and JILL rhyme was a stunner too. Even as an innocent water-fetching adventure, it made no sense. Everyone knows water seeks its own level coursing continuously downhill. Yet JACK and JILL climbed UP the hill to fetch a pail of water. This was clearly an adolescent ruse with hanky-panky intended. The falling down and TUMBLING that followed was as explicit as you could get in nursery lore, I guess. But Jill clearly enjoyed TUMBLING and in fact, came TUMBLING AFTER Jack. My first hint of female aggressiveness ... very unnerving.

The Tom Thumb story is truly disturbing also. Coming from Medieval England, it involves a Tinker named Thumbe who longed for a son into old age until his wife relented and bore him a son no bigger than his thumb ... so Mr. Thumbe and little Mr. Thumbe ... whom he named Tom. Tom Thumb stories abound, but many involve Tom getting eaten by larger animals, digestively processed, and expelled. In one such tale, he emerges from a large fish served to King Arthur himself and becomes a young knight in King Arthur’s court, especially beloved of the ladies at court. Nuff said. I don’t know if it’s related to the Tom Thumb stories or not, but also from English lore and common law, we inherit “THE RULE OF THUMB,” which establishes the width of the stick ... no wider than your thumb ... with which English and early American husbands were permitted to beat their wives. It’s surely good the courts saw fit to regulate such a practice, which might easily have become abusive. Wifey and I have continued this progress. We have reduced it to just half-a-thumb’s width, barely more than a dowel-stick now. Wifey says it’s more the whapping sound that corrects her conduct than the tiny sting of the blows.

But, oh dear, have I lost the thread of this? We were discussing the danger of nursery messaging. Harebrained of me to be running in circles so. Plod forward, sir.

I conclude that moral instruction from the nursery may mislead us on later paths of maturity to controversy, duplicity, obscurity, and adversity. In my case, WHERE I WENT WRONG dates back there somehow.

 

The Wifey Chronicles

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Thou Art That

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Just Desserts

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The Teeny Tales

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Wifey and I about to have a Chronicle moment




THE WIFEY CHRONICLES
INTRODUCTION

“So, how’s your marriage going, pal?”

“Great! Life’s sweetest joy, isn’t it.”

“Not even an occasional spat? A marital tiff... or two?”

“Oh, sure. That’s inevitable, of course.”

“Arguments, squabbles, wrangles, disputes, disagreements?”

“Sometimes, sure.”

“Miffs, tiffs, altercations, recriminations...slights, snubs, insults, rows, run-ins, raised voices, cheap shots...”

“Stop!”

“Denials, buttals, rebuttals, fallings-out, indignities...”

“Stop it!”

“Mockery, sneers, jeers, belittlings, hurt feelings, injured pride, verbal abuse, despair...”

“OK, OK! Yes! It’s just a shambles, but what’s to be done? What’s to be done?!”

“Good news, you poor wretch! THE WIFEY CHRONICLES lay all this out in frank transparency and show how the odd love pome, deftly placed, can salvage even the most strangulating routine of daily contretemps. Take heart, couples! Rhymes to the rescue!”

(Colored slides included!)

 





 

These PayPal buttons are the fastest, easiest way to get these volumes mailed quickly. Many have asked after the TEENY tales with the wonderful drawings of Michael Sooy. Here all three TEENY books are available for one low $12.00 price.
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The Wifey Chronicles

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Thou Art That

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Just Desserts

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The Teeny Tales

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Of course, if you love fumbling with checks, stamps and envelopes, send them to him at: 1149 Pleasant Circle, St. Paul MN 55112. If you just want to tell him goodbye and good riddance, email him at:sladesch@comcast.net

 


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