Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gnome man is an island.

One of my earliest memories is going into a lawn center in Brooklyn and being surrounded by every kind of artwork known to man . . . that was made out of cement and rebar. Birdbaths, angels, big giant flowers, deer, bunnies, and what perplexed me at the time, the classic that came to be known disrespectfully as Mary on the Half Shell.

I knew she was nice.
One thing I do not recall seeing then or in neighborhoods around us for years afterward was the garden gnome. I may be wrong, but I believe the garden gnome was an Eurocism that didn't really come to our shores until later, after the American publication of Gnomes, by Wil Huygen, in 1977. I can't begin to tell you how omnipresent this book was if you weren't around then. While the rest of the country was getting its collective freak on in discos, the bookstores were taken over by gnomes.

Small but  mighty: 62 weeks on the Times best-seller list.

Along with the persistence of the Tolkien oeuvre (given a shot in the arm by the publication of The Silmarillion, also in 1977), it marked a change in speculative fiction from a focus on science fiction to a focus on fantasy. I have no stats to back it up, but I would guess that it was the first time fantasy overtook science fiction since the emergence of SF as a distinct genre.

Anyway, we've had gnomes for our gardens ever since, and jolly little chaps they are, too. Found a couple at Lowe's last week, in fact.

The gnome on the right is seated, with one leg up and the other crossed in front. In case you were wondering.

There are still many things that you can get for your yard, but small as he is, the gnome stands tall. After all, how many other things in the garden store inspired an animated movie?

We're not really gnome people here, but we respect the gnome and all his garden pals. Carry on, gnome! You may be small, but in the world of garden statuary, you're 15 feet tall. (Except for one 17-foot-nine-inch gnome in Nowa Sól, Poland---that's rather a bit too much gnome, don't you think?)

One last word on Mary: She deservedly gets a place of honor on many Catholic lawns, but what do they do with my man St. Joseph? Bury him upside down when they want to unload the joint. They even sell kits for the purpose now. Bad enough he has to be in a family where his son is God and his wife is perfect---try winning arguments in that house---but now he gets buried in the sod when you want to ditch the real estate. Awesome.
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