Schuyler’s Monster by Robert Rummel-Hudson

Schuyler's Monster Schuyler’s Monster
by Robert Rummel-Hudson
Get it at Amazon.

Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, I stumbled across the blog of one Robert Rummel-Hudson, and quickly became engaged. His writing style is upbeat and candid. He’s funny, but isn’t shy about using the word “fuck” when it’s appropriate, and he’s clearly completely devoted to his young daughter, Schuyler. At the time I first “met” his words, he’d just sold his book, and was beginning the long path to publication. When I re-encountered his work about a week ago, sparked by watching Autism: the Musical on HBO, I found that not only had the book been released, but I’d missed the signing in my local bookstore. (We both live in the same metro area, but my end of it is a good hour or so from his end.)

I was disappointed, but vowed to buy the book anyway. That weekend at Borders, among all the new non-fiction about romance, modern philosophy, and diet pills, I saw the book, Schuyler’s Monster, and it was even an autographed copy. I grabbed it, stopped at Jamba Juice, and headed home to read the entire book in one sitting.

I’m not a parent, nor am I particularly interested in children, and I’m generally one to avoid disabled-kid stories like the plague because they tend to be over emotional and / or horribly fluffy. Schuyler’s Monster is neither. Rather, it’s a love story from a less-than-perfect (and therfore more than perfect) father to his (in his word) “broken” daughter.

Why broken? Because Schuyler, for all she’s a bright and mischievous child, has a neurological disorder that not only compromises her fine motor skills, but also makes her unable to form intelligible speech.

The book is as much about Rob’s reaction to his daughter’s disability, and their journey toward helping her work around it as it is an ode to playful and loving father-daughter relationships. Who wouldn’t want a dad who let you watch monster movies, even if you were really too young? I know I would.

This book was moving, yes, but it’s also funny, sweet, nostalgic, and triumphant. Like Rob’s blog, it’s upbeat and blunt. Unlike Rob’s blog, the word “fuck” isn’t used terribly often, if at all. (I should note, I don’t judge blogs by whether or not people curse. I just believe that if “fuck” is the most appropriate expression of frustration, joy, whatever, cheating on it’s use is, well, cheating. I don’t believe people should ever be afraid of language.)

(And actually he doesn’t use it that often in his blog, either).

Seriously, though, it’s a great book. You should read it for the writing alone, even if you don’t like disbled-kid stories, either.

Vocabulary from Booking through Thursday

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

Maybe it’s just because I’ve racked up a lot of reading miles on the treadmills of reading and writing – I mean, I wrote a poem stating that I wanted to be an author when I was about seven – but it’s been a long time since I’ve come across a phrase that wasn’t fairly obvious just from context.

In fact, one thing that drives me crazy is when I see other adults who don’t know how to infer meaning, don’t understand how helpful context is. Did they have bad teachers? Are their brains just not wired the same way mine is? Who can say?

On the rare occasion that I do have a word or phrase that remains a mystery, my choice of reference depends on where I am. If I’m comfortably settled in the bath, I’m not going to race to my laptop and hit or the Urban Dictionary, or use Google, but I’ll let the phrase sit in the back of my head until I have time for such a thing.

If I’m reading online – as I do a lot – then yes, I will fire up another tab in FireFox and see where it leads me. Doing so can often lead to wonderful adventures, and new turns of phrase.

Prompt provided by Booking Through Thursday.

Red Chairs and Work Shoes

We caught the end of Ever After on television tonight, while eating dinner. Or drinking dinner, really, since my dinner was a smoothie from Jamba Juice. I always enjoy that movie, and not just because Dougray Scott looks great in tight pants (though that’s definitely a plus).

Tonight however, while watching the last snippet of this re-telling of “Cinderella,” I found myself drawn to a childhood memory, of sitting on my grandfather’s lap, my bare feet resting on top of his sturdy leather work shoes, his back resting against the back of the red leather wing chair that currently occupies a corner of my writing studio.

Together, we would read from one of the big red collections of fairy tales. I suspect they were Reader’s Digest offerings, but it doesn’t really matter. Those books were magic and I wish I’d stolen them away before he died and they disappeared.

In any case, I’d read a page, and then hold the magnifier so he could see better. Those page-sized magnifiers were used once in a while, but often a more traditional glass was the lens of choice.

I wish I still had one of those, too.