Be careful what you read to your children as it may have long term consequences for the shape of their lives. Consider what happened to me, which I only realized today when my three-year-old brought me a new book to read to him. It was a classic, Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? whichI remembered fondly though I probably hadn’t set eyes on an edition in 35 years.
When I opened the book, I was struck by the contents of the first page – a Bosch-esque illustration of Busy Town overrun with anthropomorphized animal bohemians. Each one embodied a different aspect of my own aspirations and much of my resulting professional life. It was like uncovering the long lost blueprint to the Gen X psyche (the book was first published in 1968), by turns quaint and chaotic.
Here’s the roster – under one funky roof: an artist and a model crammed in a garret next door to the “story writer” who is toiling a floor below “a poet writing poems.” In a narrow adjacent building, a musician leans out his window with his violin as a newspaper reporter rushes passed the sidewalk cafe, headed toward the “The News,” conveniently sandwiched between a book printer and “The Remarkable Book Shop” on the ground floor.
I think I’d like to live there, which is likely an echo of my thinking three and a half decades ago. Predictably, (fortunately, mercifully?) my kid was more interested in the fox duct taping some wire cable in a manhole on the next page. At least he’ll be able to honestly answer Scarry’s question, What Do People Do All Day? without seeming evasive.