Saturday, August 06, 2011

World of Absurdities: "'We'll raise this baby yet,' said Nurse"

We just bought a 1960's Scholastic printing of Father's Big Improvements through E-bay.  It's a really fun story, and just like the copy I had when I was about ten.  But the book was originally published in 1936.  (With me so far?)

The story begins (small spoiler coming) with the birth of a baby during the blizzard of 1888.  Little Nan isn't doing so well, so the doctor tells the father to walk through the snow and bring back the nurse.  Which Father does.  And then the nurse wants to know: 

"Where am I going to get fresh milk for this baby?"

Well, of course.  Everybody knows that you give fresh raw cow's milk to a sickly newborn human person.  Especially when there's a mama human person right there.


Well, what the nurse says goes, so they dig out the cow, and get the milk, and save little Nan's life. 

The funny part, to me, is that I read this as a child and thought it all made perfect sense.

What I am curious about, though, is that in a story full of "oh-no-he-didn't, it wasn't invented yet" detail, Emerson would have gotten away with fudging on the baby food, even out of some kind of misaligned '30's modesty about how babies get fed.  Even if she knew nothing about babies herself, in 1936, the story of the Dionne quintuplets (1934) surviving on donated (human) milk was still big news.  Of course, she would have had to come up with a completely different reason for bringing the cow into the kitchen.  Maybe Nan's brother had a hankering for ice cream. I don't know.

Does it matter?  No, of course not; it's just a story.  But it makes me wonder how many other writerly slips in logic I once assumed were right!

1 comment:

Jeanne said...


Sometimes it is lovely and nostalgic to reread the books of our youth. Sometimes, though, we discover they're just twaddle.

So sad, that.

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