The spring issue of The Children's Literature Association Quarterly features an essay by SDSU's resident poetry expert Joseph Thomas. His piece primarily concerns the various versions of Silverstein's Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book: A Primer for Tender Young Minds and Uncle Shelby’s Story of Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, but it also attends to Silverstein's songs and decidedly adult Playboy cartoons.
Titled "A Speculative Account (with Notes) of the Development & Initial Deployments of Shel Silverstein's Persona, Uncle Shelby, with Special Care to Articulate the Relationship of Said Persona to the Question of Shel's Ambiguous Audience(s)," Thomas's piece speculates on the development and initial appearances of Shel Silverstein's persona, Uncle Shelby, while taking care to articulate the relationship of that persona to the question of Shel Silverstein's adult and child audiences. Thomas argues that the question of audience is crucial to a complex understanding of Silverstein's oeuvre, as it is often unclear just who Silverstein is writing for: children or adults. This ambiguity is something akin to Uli Knoepflmacher & Mitzi Myers's notion of "cross-writing," but with a difference. Thomas concludes,
Check it out in the new issue of the ChLA Quarterly, volume 6, issue 1, pages 25-46. And be sure to cite it in your work! Nothing jazzes up an essay quite like referencing a paragraph-long title, especially when the title is longer than the quotation that follows. Imagine:
with the suggestion that Shel Silverstein and his persona, Uncle Shelby, provide us with a more robust way to think about children’s literature, reminding us that the line between texts for adults and those for children is far more blurry than we generally like to believe, as is the line between child culture and adult culture, even though we like to police that line with ever-growing determination [...]. Uncle Shelby and Shel Silverstein help us to de-fetishize the ever fraught and socially constructed distinction between child and adult, but they do so without asking us to naively dismiss audience completely, showing us, instead, that our conception of audience informs our relationship with literature, diminishing certain understandings while emphasizing others. The author isn’t dead after all, despite claims to the contrary, and the author function operates hand-in-hand with his implied audience. The text, far from being static and unchanging, rather, works much like those optical illusions in art textbooks: at one moment we see an old lady, the next a lovely young girl; one moment a vase, the next two human profiles.
This flickering perception, this stuttering flux, is ultimately a part of the text, not epitextual not peritextual not intertextual: it is part and parcel of the work itself, as important as the words on the page. Our persistence of vision and the ideological preconceptions underpinning it render the strobe invisible. We ignore it at our peril, and we’ve ignored this element of Silverstein’s work for too long. (40)
As Joseph Thomas writes in his essay, "A Speculative Account (with Notes) of the Development & Initial Deployments of Shel Silverstein's Persona, Uncle Shelby, with Special Care to Articulate the Relationship of Said Persona to the Question of Shel's Ambiguous Audience(s)," "The author isn’t dead after all"(40).Wow! Now that's good stuff!