Review

Postmodern Pooh

by Frederick Crews



Literary critic Leslie Fiedler, who helped launch the concept of
the "postmodern," or PoMo, to the general public in the early
1950s, said that westerns and science fiction pulps ought to be
studied in universities alongside Milton and Twain.

While today's scholars ponder how to define the post-postmodern in
the age of the United States of McDonald's and Microsoft, Crews has
raised the bar yet again with POSTMODERN POOH, a "long awaited"
follow up to 1963's POOH PERPLEX, a collection of hilarious
pseudointellectual papers from mock professors and experts
vigorously tearing universal truths and psychological secrets from
the pages of A. A. Milne.

For the Freudian, Marxist, NeoAristotelian, Biopoeticist,
Deconstructionist, and Postcultualist in all of us, POSTMODERN
POOH, like its predecessor, satirizes university and literary
conference doctoratespeak while posing as highbrow criticism. Crews
equally champions and disparages Fiedler's cause, adding the study
of children's literature and the creation of the essay and "call
for papers" conference in the harsh light of post-postmodern Pooh
analysis paralysis, or Po-PoMo-PoohAP, while paradoxically mocking
postmodern criticism in the face of one of PoMo's rivals, the
corporatization and American Generica embraced by today's youth
(every new kid's cartoon feature film has a McDonald's or Burger
King tie-in) at the greedy hands of Disney, owners of the recreated
Pooh characters. In outpostmoderning the postmodern, or creating
the post-postmodern, Crews offers something that implodes
intellectually or acts like a vacuum cleaner suddenly sucking its
own hose, unable to stop.

It is almost possible to take Crews seriously until he reveals in
his introduction to POSTMODERN POOH that his Princeton professor
friend, N. Mack Hobbs, who held the Pooh panel at the December 2000
Modern Language Association conference from which these papers were
"gathered," published the book before Crews had a chance, or
bothered, to take the time to read these 11 penetrating
essays.

Felicia Marronnez, Sea & Ski Professor of English at UC Irvine,
opens the collection pondering the symbolism of the landmarks in
the 100 Acre Wood, from the broken sign outside Piglet's house
"Trespassers W" and Pooh's house sign, "Mr. Sanders," to Piglet's
own attempts to communicate in writing during the various
catastrophes that strike in THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER. The next
offering comes from Victor S. Fassell, Exxon Valdez Chair in the
Humanities at Rice University. Fassell, also the author of "The
Sorcerer's Appendix," stresses that Pooh characters are often
"fetishizing about the breast and phallus, respectively" while
living in a "de facto nudist colony." As an avid reader and young
father, I personally found Fassell to be the perfect fodder for the
eyes to glaze over and the mind to wander back to that (not so)
innocent world of the 100 Acre Wood. Carla Gulag, Duke University's
Joe Camel Professor of Child Development, sees the slightly
less-than-naked but
all-too-telling-not-to-be-really-really-true-too-smart-well-read-and-heavily-pierced
Marxist in POOH CORNER: "By caking himself in dirt, Piglet is
reasserting his class identity and thus preserving himself from
social castration by the whitening, starching, homogenizing
influence of that sylvan soccer mom, Kanga." Feminist Sistera
Catheter says that when Eeyore's tail falls off "he is so unsure of
his maleness that he now hopes to transform himself into an unborn
baby woman" by hiding his head between his legs. Orpheus Bruno,
Harvard's Hasty Puddings Theatricals Professor, determines the real
author behind THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER by consulting a Ouija board,
while Emory University's Classic Coke Professor Das Nuffa Dat
labels Milne a racist complacent pacifist. The standout paper,
"Virtual Bear" by SUNY Stony Brook's Biggloria3, delivered at the
conference under a continuous strobe light and white noise,
manipulates Pooh's future, his only future, as cyber homosexual
fiction.

Crews "friend" Hobbs sums up this "book" with a brighter note:
"POOH works flawlessly as a comedy of errors for five-year-olds,
but it's also a hall of mirrors whose intricacy bears comparison to
the best of Conrad, Kafka, Borges, and Pynchon." Oprah might dare
to add Franzen but that may be Pooh much, indeed.

Reviewed by Brandon M. Stickney on January 22, 2011

Postmodern Pooh
by Frederick Crews

  • Publication Date: October 10, 2001
  • Genres: Essays, Humor
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press
  • ISBN-10: 0865476268
  • ISBN-13: 9780865476264