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Just a Mess

av Mercer Mayer

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,775209,758 (3.87)2
A boy cleans up his messy room to try to find his baseball mitt.
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  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
just a mess is a fun book about the perils of a messy room. ( )
  CourtneyRay | Apr 20, 2020 |
i did not much enjoy the majority of the first books that i was able to read competently and independently. only a few provoked true aversion or derision (like the berenstain bears), most merely seemed empty and unsettling

i remember the little critter series for the distinct sense of difficult-to-place discomfort; so much abt the series is immediately and intuitively upsetting, but on second glance it is so profoundly banal as to defy any emotional reaction whatsoever. the distance bw the initial discomfort and the utterly banal surface of the world of little critter is itself a source of anxiety and tension--how could this thing make me so uncomfortable when it is "in fact" so normal and usual? the world's symbolic facade thus makes the reader question the rational basis of their initial emotional reaction, indeed makes the reader question their own sanity

there are two elements of the textual world of little critter that i think warrant special attention: the physiognomy of the characters, and the reader's process of moral interpretation

the eponymous "critter" is not identifiable as any one species. thus it is not only different from us (humans) in terms of species, but in terms of its symbolic embedding in the world. we are confronted as readers with these bizarre creatures which are similar enough to other familiar species as to b somewhat imaginable, but still inextricably different. furthermore most anthropomorphic animals obtain the shape and structure of the human body relatively closely and consistently (though before the meteoric rise of the global online furry community this was less consistent). in many of the books of the little critter series this might appear to also be the case for "the critters," but if one is familiar with the greater series then it is clear that "the critters" have a strange body structure not reminiscent of humans at all (this can be seen most clearly in [b: Just For You|386234|Just for You (Little Critter)|Mercer Mayer|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1388332030s/386234.jpg|375913]). neither human nor animal, nor following the implicit rules for anthropomorphic animals, the critter inhabits a liminal space that is neither here nor there, unimaginable and yet understandable, clearly a mammal and yet outside the sphere of imaginable mammals.

all critters (at least in "Just a Mess") also have identical facial features. the characters are distinguished by clothing, overall body size (age), minor variations in their (head) hair, and moment-to-moment are distinguished by their comportment and emotionality. but they are otherwise identical

speaking of emotionality--the world of little critter is full of strong emotions, usually those regarded as "negative." anger, frustration, and spite can be found on many of the covers of little critter books, and are some of the more common emotions seen on the pages of this book. indeed some of the most positive emotions displayed are indifference and invidious or mischievous satisfaction. this could b understood as a form of sympathetic realism--"its ok to b angry, see these characters are angry sometimes too!" but the depth of negative emotion runs far deeper

its not just the frequency or intensity of negative emotions that is unnerving, but the consequences as well. extreme, unjustified anger or frustration, despite appearing on half the pages, is simply part of the journey for little critter and co. based on its frequency and intensity one can only imagine the seething rage and resentment building up in the children. and the total indifference of the parents is also striking--this seems to b little critter's first time cleaning his room, and yet neither parent wants to bother themselves helping him. cleaning your room is an incredibly important and deep life skill, and a habit to b cultivated! one would think that if it is a child's first time cleaning their room, a parent would want to b involved!! especially if they can detect the horrifying scorn on their child's face.

but as little critter cleans his room alone and without help, he of course misses the entire point of the room cleaning exercise--he simply moves the mess from a place where it is seen but easy to clean or tolerate (the floor) to a place where it is unseen but MUCH more difficult to clean or tolerate (jammed, disorganized, overflowing into the closet, chest, under the bed). little critter does indeed find the missing object he seeks, but it is entirely by chance, and is found WHILE looking for another missing object which might never be found!

the troubling emotional lives of the children, concerning indifference of the parents, and total misunderstanding of cleanliness and organization in the end lead to... a resolution of the central conflict. little critter lost a glove, and his floor was covered in things. at the end, he has found his glove, his floor is cleared, and there is finally a smile on his face. all those troubling or concerning elements ultimately are rewarded when little critter accomplishes his goal, and in a certain shallow sense has learned a lesson (hide the mess to please your mom). all of this unfolds as in any other children's picture book, but the moral logic is upended as undesirable, irresponsible, and antisocial traits are depicted as normal, usual, alright, and in fact good and proper! one could try to read this as subversive or disruptive if it wasnt for the lack of any sort of compassion, care, or justice in the book; its merely a disgusting world without morals. and its all the more confusing as the book will likely be read AS a children's book, in which undesirable traits lead to consequences and are corrected, and a moral lesson is learned abt proper behavior according to some normative morality. if one enters the world of little critter with this assumption, only bewilderment and discomfort will follow

the characters, their presentations, and their interactions are given to the reader as a sort of symbolic expanse. the reader uses their working knowledge of the world around them to interpret this symbolic realm of the book into an imaginable and understandable world of personal meanings and identifications. thus the fit bw the symbolic world of the book and the symbolic world of the reader is key, as this fit is what makes the book accessible to the reader's imaginary realm.

the fit between the symbolic world of little critter and the symbolic realm of our 21st c american world is haphazard and uneven. the result is a nauseating vertigo as the symbolic floor of the imaginary realm falls out from underneath the Ego of the reader, and they plunge crashing into the traumatic soup that is the unintelligible realm of The Real. the juxtaposition of the bizarre species of "the critters" with their near lack of individuation destabilizes the already challenging image of The Big Other, or the actual Other. the Other defies identification, like the species of "the critters," but in this defiance it is utterly unique beyond imagining. but the identical faces of the critters portray a horrifying solipsistic world not unlike that seen in "Los Parecidos" (2015), where the subject is confronted with a wholly alienated world of undifferentiated and unending Other-ness into which the subject may never be truly welcomed or accepted unless they die by subsuming themselves. thus the critters defy the logic of self-other that composes the symbolic and imaginary realms, being neither small other nor Big Other, mercer mayer undoes the work of the conscious and unconscious mind by cutting straight to the unmovable Reality of the world

the twisted emotionality and upended moral logic contribute to this vertiginous fall off the brink of sanity. the reader desperately searches for some understandable grain of humanity, something warm and stabilizing, something that might confirm that yes, the reader IS reading a normal childrens book and everything IS just fine! instead the reader find a sick inversion of Deleuze's "desiring machines"--all the characters are like antagonizing machines, all hooked up to each other and powering each other with mutual resentment, indifference, and spite. while Deleuze sought to escape the prison that is Lacan's symbolic realm through a compassionate schizoanalysis, this route is even denied to our reader who is unmoored without Lacan's signifiers or Deleuze's desiring machines to orient oneself towards others. and just as the worst elements of psychosis are manifested in paranoid perceptions of ill-will, so does the entire world of little critter seem to be inhabited and powered entirely by confrontational ill-will. one SHOULD be constantly paranoid of everyone and everything around, because they all harbor nothing but hate or cruel indifference

thus the world of little critter cuts holes into the symbolic foundation of the ego, not necessarily sending it tumbling entirely into the psychotic pit of insanity in The Real, but opening up fissures that invite the reader to remember The Real, that invite the reader to be just slightly retraumatized

i do not kno why Mercer Mayer would wish this upon children unless he himself has a twisted conception of the lifeworld of american children and the trauma that brings them into the world

still not as bad as the berenstain bears tho ( )
  sashame | Dec 9, 2018 |
Little Critter lost his baseball mitt. His mom made him clean his messy room. After he cleaned his room he found his baseball mitt because the mess was cleaned up.
  AllisonCallaway | Feb 22, 2017 |
brother critter has a very messy room and he is looking for his baseball mitt. he starts cleaning and eventually finds his mitt.
1 book
  TUCC | Dec 19, 2016 |
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A boy cleans up his messy room to try to find his baseball mitt.

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