Pluralistic: 12 Apr 2022

Today's links

The cover for Daniel Pinkwater's 'Crazy in Poughkeepsie.'

Daniel Pinkwater's "Crazy in Poughkeepsie" (permalink)

"Crazy in Poughkeepsie" is Daniel Pinkwater's standalone, demi-sequel to 2020's "Adventures of Dwergish Girl," a YA novel about a sort-of Catskills leprechaun girl whose coming of age involves moving to human civilization, learning the art of pizza-making, getting involved with community radio, venturing to New York City to drink papaya juice and learn mystic secrets from a junk-store owner, and, ultimately, resolving an existential threat to human civilization based on weaponizing a large cohort of Civil War ghosts (she gets help from an ancient witch).

If that sounds like a lot, it would be, but not for Pinkwater, whose 100+ books revel in eccentricity, excess, compassion and surrealism. Reading Pinkwater is a bit like the scene in Mary Poppins where Julie Andrews opens her kit bag and pulls a series of impossibly large objects out of it, more and more, making it seem unremarkable (but no less delightful for it).

In "Crazy," Pinkwater introduces us to Mick, who's just come home from his first overnight camp experience. While he was away, his older brother, Maurice, has gone trekking in Nepal to find a guru (Maurice has been sold on gurus from superhero comics where having a guru is a surefire way to acquire mystical powers).

Maurice's guru-sojourn has been a success…sort of. High in the mystic mountains, Maurice met Guru Lump Smythe-Finkel and his dog, Lhasa (a "kali" dog). The Guru was behind in the rent on his cave, so he leapt at Maurice's offer to fly back to Poughkeepsie and live in Mick's room.

Mick is a little put out at first, but after all, he's just had the time of his life in a cabin with six other boys of awful hygiene and habits. By comparison, having a neat, well-behaved old man and his old, friendly dog as roommates is just fine. Maurice, meanwhile, has a favor to beg of Mick. It turns out that Guru Smythe-Finkel doesn't want to teach Maurice mystical powers – he just wants to teach him how to meditate! Mick thinks meditation is sitting still and thinking, but as Maurice explains, it's worse than that. Meditation is sitting still and not thinking.

In true big brother fashion, Maurice dumps his Guru on Mick and goes back to community college to study accounting. Maurice begins to take long, daily walks with Guru Lump and Lhasa the kali, leaning how to beg (though Guru Lump explains that it's not technically begging!).

Things get into high gear when they run into one of Mick's camp-friends who has fallen in with the Dwergish Girl of the previous volume. She has gone crazy, she explains, and he is trying his hand at juvenile delinquency. They become fast friends and soon discover a haunted butter-churn factory (Poughkeepsie is full of abandoned factories). The ghosts of the butter-churn factory inspire the mission that's at the heart of "Crazy" – escorting the ghost of a beloved whale to the whale afterlife.

Pinkwater says that his books aren't a celebration of weirdness. For me, this is a kind of koan, because reading Pinkwater's books growing up made me the mutant I am today. What does it mean when the guru whose books about being weird tells you that his books are not about being weird? I have pondered this for years, and I think maybe it means that Pinkwater's books are not a celebration of weirdness – rather, they reveal how abnormal normal is. Pinkwater's characters and scenarios aren't weird – rather, the "normal" we insist upon is so thin on the ground that it is the true weirdness. Indeed, the weirdest thing about "normal" is our unwillingness too acknowledge that it is not to be found outside of our fantasies of living in a normal, predictable world.

The Pinkwaterverse is a place of delight and camaraderie, wordplay and weirdness, magic and epic sojourns. Each Pinkwater novel is a novelty and unmistakably part of his vast literary legacy. "Crazy in Poughkeepsie" is a trip to whale heaven, an afterlife that we can all aspire to.

Hey look at this (permalink)

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Giants Beware: kids’ graphic novel that will delight adults too

#10yrsago Call for diversity in D&D rulebooks

#10yrsago Putting a name to the free-floating dread inspired by the Facebook/Instagram acquisition

#10yrsago Antitrust and ebooks: regulators miss the big DRM lock-in picture

#5yrsago Human rights coalition from the global south to W3C: don’t put DRM in web standards!

#5yrsago After ratting out users to China, Yahoo created (and then blew) a $17m “dissidents’ fund”

#5yrsago Oversold, understated and authoritarian: debullshitifying the reporting on United’s “removal” of Dr David Dao

#5yrsago Prison inmates built working PCs out of ewaste, networked them, and hid them in a closet ceiling

#1yrago Big Tech's secret weapon is switching costs, not network effects

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 505 words (82236 words total).

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: When Automation Becomes Enforcement

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Medium (no ads, paywalled):

(Latest Medium column: "Big Tech Isn’t Stealing News Publishers’ Content: It’s Stealing Their Money

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla