Tuesday, July 17, 2012

RIP, Donald Sobol

I heard -- in an e-mail, of all things -- that Donald J. Sobol has died. I didn't know Sobol, but I did know his creation, Encyclopedia Brown. After I heard, I looked up the NYT obit. I had no idea Sobol had still been writing and publishing books in the series almost until his death. The last one (by him) hasn't even come out yet.

Then again, I haven't read any of the books in about 40 years. But I guess younger generations have. The formula was always the same, as the obit notes: "Each book holds 10 stories, each involving a mystery that 10-year-old Leroy (Encyclopedia) Brown solves by keen observation and deduction. He notices that the culprit has his sweater on inside out, or claims to smell flowers that are fake. The rest is self-evident.

"The solution is not spelled out in the story; readers are challenged to figure it out for themselves — or to flip to the back for the answer, as Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie About Schmidt does as he lies in bed, engrossed in Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man."

They weren't my favorite series as a lad, but I liked them a lot. (I always enjoyed Danny Dunn better, whose creators are long dead now). It's good that there are works of juvenile fiction that cerebrate knowing something, as opposed to cerebrating ignorance (viz., just about anything on the Disney Channel). RIP, Mr. Sobol.



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