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Bring Your Peashooter!

Posted by Joshua Glenn  October 3, 2012 02:31 PM

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When children's book author Jean Merrill died this past August, at 89, the New York Times obit mentioned Occupy Wall Street.

Strange? Not if you've read Merrill's 1964 (but much-reprinted) YA novel, The Pushcart War, in which fiercely independent street peddlers join forces to wage nonlethal but effective guerrilla warfare against the bullying agents (i.e, trucks) of the established social and economic forces which threaten their livelihood. The pushcart warriors, who shoot pins from peashooters into truck tires — Frank the Flower, General Anna, Morris the Florist, and Maxie Hammerman — are truly memorable literary characters. Frank the Flower, in particular, not only because of his floral hat (shown above), but because of the courage he displays once he's arrested; he falsely confesses that he shot all 18,991 of the trucks...

Merrill — who also wrote such terrific books as Henry, The Hand-Painted Mouse (1951), The Woover (1952), and The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars (1967), died of cancer at her home in Randolph, Vermont on August 2. Her memorial service, which is on October 7 in Chelsea, Vermont, is not a public event — but I wanted to pass along a wonderful quote from the memorial invitation, which a friend of mine received. The invite reads: "Please bring a pot luck contribution, a song, a poem, a remembrance to share. Wear your Frank the Flower hat and bring your peashooter!"

La luta continua!

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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