Pretty Pussies and Super Dogs: The Studies in Crap Kids' Book Round-Up
Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Author: None listed
Publisher: Samuel Gabriel & Sons
The Cover Promises: You will find it hard Googling this book.
"Well this is strange
I never yet
Have seen a mouse
A pussy's pet."
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It's cats, not vulvas, obviously, but before you start high-horsing about this being too cheap a book to cover, or about 1942 being some more innocent time when women didn't swear and high schools taught douching, let your Crap Archivist remind you that the Oxford English Dictionary dates "pussy" as slang for "the external female sexual organs" all the way back to 1880.
The term goes back to at least 1583, referring to women, and it has applied to kittens since at least 1765, when it turned up in Mother Goose. Edward Lear probably meant no double entendre when he dropped it into this 1829 verse, but the second meaning only richens the work:
"I love little pussy
Her coat is so warm
And if I don't hurt her
She'll do me no harm."
Good advice! (Lear also wrote "The Dong With a Luminous Nose.")
Teddy Roosevelt likewise intended no dirty giggles when he wrote of "an exceedingly malevolent pussy cat" in 1919. But not long afterwards, when the high modernists took to the word, pussy came to seem unclean, even when still ostensibly feline. Gertrude Stein includes a "pussy cat" in Tender Buttons; Sinclair Lewis imagines a plutocrat who "folded his hands on his comfortable little belly and purred like an aged pussy."
Joyce is blunter in Ulysses : "Come, come, pussy. Come."
In short, I can't quite buy that by 1942 Samuel Gabriel & Sons had no idea just what Pretty Pussies suggested. Perhaps they even intended it. As Studies in Crap has documented, distributing printed material of a frank sexual nature was illegal for the first half of the last century.
Could the seemingly innocent Pretty Pussies have been meant to double as an undercover hygiene guide?
After all, it covers cleanliness.
It teaches girls how to handle the temptations of dampness.
In moist climates, the only place you should ever go is abstinence class.
Pretty Pussies even addresses the process of aging.
But enough about kitties! Ladies, meet Laddie, the Walter Mitty-esque pup headlining the second book in our roundup!
Author: William P. Gottlieb, story and pictures
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Discovered at: Antique store
The Cover Promises: Don't feed Laddie after midnight.
No gynecological etymology here.
Instead, influential jazz photographer William P. Gottlieb's goofy Little Golden Book is a total delight. Based on a film-strip Gottleib shot for Curriculum Films, Laddie the Superdog is, as far as I can tell, the only intentionally hilarious thing assigned to schoolkids in the '50s.
One day, a kid chews out his pet.
The dog is polite enough not to tell the kid to XYZ.
Rattled but still lazy, Laddie falls asleep and has a strange dream.
In it, people all carry briefcases announcing their professions.
After that, things get weird.
(Notice that Bruce seems to be enjoying a sit down in Old Sparky.)
Then this happens.
Fortunately, today's schools have ceded the responsibility of teaching kids to stand on the heads of dogs back to the families, where it belongs.
Also, Laddie is the messiah.
Laddie also reads a book, stuffs and mounts a deer, and flares up his ears to look even more like a Mogwai, all of which demonstrates that William P. Gottlieb is the best at everything, ever.
You can keep your To Kill a Mockingbird, America. As for the next Big Read or Oprah pick or Mao red book or infallible testament or whatever, me and my family will serve Laddie.
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]
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