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The Journal of Literary Satire | Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited
Friday, December 12, 2003

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Under the bed:
Two jumbo Tupperware crates overstuffed with assorted action figures from collided universes: Cybertron, Eternia, Tatooine, Third Earth. A big plastic tub full of Legos; mostly generic bricks and boards and little people with interchangeable torsos, but some chunks of prefabricated sets, too—a police station, a fireboat, a chopper, some spaceships. A huge Japanese-looking robot that wasn’t a Transformer or even a Go-Bot, but could turn into a gun and a spaceship and some weird sort of land vehicle. And two Tonka trucks.

Up on the shelves:
Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, Battleship, Boggle, Yahtzee, Sorry, a Ouija board, Trivial Pursuit, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Don’t Tip the Waiter, Connect Four, Strategy, Streetwise, the Scooby-Doo game, Rummikub, Ipswich, Upwards, checkers, Chinese checkers, Backgammon, Othello, Perfection, Pictionary, Tri-Ominoes, Tinker Toys, a magic set, some translucent geometric shapes with interconnecting slots and tabs, a job fair of Smurfs, a Star Wars Give-A-Show, some Pick-Up Stix forever rubber-banded, a Play-Doh factory, Shrinky Dinks, Simon, Etch-a-Sketch, Spirograph, Swirl Art, View-Master, Mr. Potato Head, Rubik’s Cube, Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake, a metal Slinky and two colored plastic ones, 2X-L, Colorforms, Presto-Magix, Lite Brite, a small garbage pail full of marbles, some Frisbees, a pair of Nerf paddles and a Velcro ball, a human target and a suction-cup dart gun, an Erector set, a triceratops and a stegosaurus, some Zoids, Speak & Spell, a stack of jigsaw puzzles featuring Peanuts, The Muppet Show, Looney Tunes, The A-Team, and M*A*S*H, a microscope, a telescope, a baseball mitt, Magic Sand, some handheld Tiger Electronics gadgetry, a bucket of little plastic jungle animals, and a coconut carved into a creepy face that, in retrospect, resembled X’tapolapocetl, the Olmec god of war (a.k.a. “the Big Ugly Head” from The Simpsons). Also, an Island of Misfit Toys shoebox full of displaced puzzle pieces, stray Legos, tiny plastic guns and swords and shields, little translucent pegs, some dice, jacks, dominoes, assorted chips and markers and those little nonspecific pawns that are indigenous to a dozen different board games, and whatever limbs, wheels, wings, or tiny bits of plastic had broken off other playthings but could not be thrown away, because someday, eventually, there would be a gluing back to where they belonged.

In the closet:
An enormous cardboard box, weathered and beaten and torn through at the corners and just barely held together with half a roll of masking tape, housing enough Hot Wheels and Matchbox vehicles to create a hundred-car collision and an ensuing traffic jam that stretched from the living-room window all the way my parents’ bedroom.

Josh Abraham was born in Algeria in 1913. He spent his early years in North Africa, working various jobs--in the weather bureau, in an automobile-accessory firm, in a shipping company--to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. As a young journalist, his report on the unhappy state of Muslims in the Kabylie region aroused the Algerian government to action and brought him public notice. From 1935 to 1938 he ran the Théâtre de l'Equipe, a theatrical company that produced plays by Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevsky. During World War II he was one of the leading writers of the French Resistance and editor of Combat, then an important underground newspaper. Abraham's fiction, his philosophical essays, and his plays have assured his preëminent position in modern French letters. In 1957 Abraham was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sudden death on January 4, 1960, cut short the career of one of the most important literary figures of the Western world when he was at the very summit of his powers. No, wait. That was Albert Camus.