July 16, 2007
The Story of Squonk
I just finished reading the McSweeney’s story “The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter,” about a circus elephant hanged for murder in a small Tennessee town in the early 20th Century. Brilliant. Affecting, gripping, wonderfully written, and a little bit heartbreaking. It’s one of those stories that you Google when you finish reading it, and then come to find out many wondrous things. For example, the story’s not entirely fictional. In fact, an entire book has been written about it, attempting to get at the truth behind what happened that day in Tennessee.
And then there’s the squonk, a legendary creature from the Pennsylvanian wilds said to dissolve into a pool of tears and bubbles when cornered.
There’s a throwaway reference to a ballet, “La Chauve-Souris Dorée,” by a choreographer named Plastikoff — “a rare work,” the story says, “in that it celebrated not courtship, but daily love, the often-pale and unnoticed emotions that pass between a man and wife.” Google yields no English references to Plastikoff, but “La Chauve-Souris Dorée,” or “The Gilded Bat,” is the name of a promising story written and illustrated by Edward Gorey.
I love texts that make you want to Google every word. And I love that you can.