One of the advantages of the Imus premium service is that you can listen to the show without commercials. And one of the downsides? Listening to the show without commercials.
And by "commercials," I mean those epic PSAs that tell us how to live our lives. One disturbing trend I'd noticed while listening to the stream was that, on average, 90% of the PSAs could be divided into the following categories:
1)Your kids are off doing horrible, antisocial things - doing drugs, cheating in school, singing off-key ditties about their chronic asthma problem - all at the same time. Since you’ve never talked to your kids about these issues, you are a despicable parent who should never have been allowed to procreate.
2) There are millions of foster children who desperately want you to adopt them.
In recent times they've been playing "Joys of Reading" PSAs, sponsored by some National Literacy Organization. (So along with being a deadbeat parent, you also can't read no good.) An announcer would read a passage from a "nature adventure" book, and then they'd announce, like a radio DJ at the end of a song, "That was (title), written by (author). To read more, go to our website."
The reason I'm mentioning these commercials is that they brought back a very special memory, one that will resonate with those of you around my age. The other day, the literacy group advertised the book "Hatchet."
Hatchet was this book about a kid who survives a plane crash and has to fend for himself in the wilderness. This was one of those children's "nature appreciation" books that tried to get kids to put down the Nintendo and enjoy the environment. The problem was, nearly all of these books embraced the wilderness by having the characters stranded in the woods, starving to death, being badly hurt, and doing everything they could to get OUT of the wilderness.
I have never understood why the authors used this tactic. If I wanted kids to appreciate nature, I think I'd write about a book about how nature is, you know, fun. Now, we all know that the wild is filled with horrifying things - snakes, carnivores, Southern men politely requesting you to squeal like a pig - but geez, it isn't all terrible. Write about the fun parts, like canoeing and hiking and going on adventures. Don't write about urine-drinking or cousin-eating or crawling out of the plane wreckage, injured and covered in jet fuel, as the pilot slowly burns alive in the inferno. And you wonder why kids don't play outside anymore.
Anyway, at the time I was the only ten-year-old on the North American continent who had never read the book. EVERYONE read this novel; it was the village bicycle of book reports. I don't know why I never looked into it. I guess I grew tired of hearing fifty presentations, all in a row, about how a kid has to eat turtle eggs for 150 pages. And plus, I knew without reading it that the boy would get rescued in the end. The great thing about books for that age was that 95% of them had a happy ending; you knew that the author wouldn't give you the finger and have the kid get eaten by wolverines.
Even better, the book was so successful that the author wrote four sequels about the boy getting stranded in the forest. It was the Police Academy of young adult fiction. Honestly, some people just need to stay away from airplanes.
But even though I successfully avoided reading Hatchet as a child, it appears that as an adult I still haven’t escaped it entirely; they now advertise it in, of all places, my favorite radio program. I have come full circle.
So thank you, Imus in the Morning, for bringing back those memories. And if that National Council really want to boost literacy, then I suggest that they ditch the fourth-grade nature novels and have Charles read aloud from Portnoy’s Complaint or 120 Days of Sodom. Now THAT would get people reading.