Monday, March 10, 2008

I SAW ESAU edited by Iona & Peter Opie

The Book: Iona & Peter Opie, editors; I SAW ESAU: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Candlewick Press, 1992 (first U.S. edition). Fine book in very good dust jacket; jacket shows rubbing at spine, 1/4" tear at top of spine.
First read: 1993
Owned since: 1993

Last week I turned in two massive projects and had rehearsals every night. This week I have rehearsals every night, too, but my workload's a little more reasonable, so the blog schedule should be back to normal. And it's spring -- really, despite the current temperature of 19F -- so I feel more energetic in general.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of a canon of books that everyone should read, but it's comforting when people get your references -- and disconcerting when you find that someone has no idea what you're talking about. For example, a castmate in a show I'm currently involved in does not know the correct pronunciation of the name "Esau." It baffles and frustrates me, and I can barely restrain myself from interrupting -- or, worse, from saying something truly obnoxious like, "Uh, Old Testament? Esau, Jacob's brother? A hairy man, not a smooth man? Sold his birthright for a mess of pottage?" It's important to recognize one's character flaws, and I know that I get insufferable about this stuff.

But I'm thinking about bringing this book along to the next rehearsal. It's a collection of traditional but offbeat children's poems, with cheerfully nasty illustrations by Maurice Sendak. The title poem is one that I originally learned a slightly different version of:

I saw Esau kissing Kate,
The fact is we all three saw;
For I saw him,
And he saw me,
And Kate saw I saw Esau.


It's not clever unless you understand that "Esau" rhymes with "three saw."

If a canon exists, childhood rhymes are the beginning. We don't all need to know the words to "I Saw Esau," but how can we talk to each other if we can't all sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"?

6 comments:

Anna said...

You clearly need to take a deep breath, Elle, and let the Esau thing go. I don't know who he is either but you still let me into your circle of friends. Oddly, though, I do know how to pronounce it correctly.

AnswerGirl said...

And Baptists say _Catholics_ don't know the Bible... http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/genesis/genesis25.htm

Bea said...

I like the translations that use "plate of lentils." I really like lentils.

AnswerGirl said...

I like lentils, too! Especially with bacon. I think there's a recipe in THE BACON COOKBOOK...

norby said...

You and the bacon thing. I don't get it.

But I have to say, maybe it's just because my parents made me go to church all through my childhood, who doesn't know how to say Esau?

carrie said...

I'll tell you who, this crazy lady at the next table over in Panera who is pronouncing it EEE-SUE in a bible study. It's driving me CRAZY!!! So crazy in fact that I googled the correct pronunciation and feel so much better to see that someone else gets driven crazy by this. Geepers. Do you think it would be way out of line for me to scream over there - YOU'RE SAYING IT WRONG YOU CRAZY WOMAN!! Yeah, probably not a good idea :) I feel better just thinking about doing it though.