If there are two things Bernalwood boasts in spades, it’s creative types and kids. One of the former, six-year hill resident Aaron Ximm — my husband! — officially became a capital-A author yesterday with the publication of his first book, Pat the Zombie: A Cruel (Adult) Spoof.
Which brings us to the kids. Pat the Zombie is a parody of one of the best-selling children’s classics of all time, Dorothy Kunhardt’s 1940 Pat the Bunny, a self-described “touch and feel” book whose interactive tactile features (such as soft, petable bunny “fur” and smellable flowers) were a novelty when it came out in 1940.
By contrast, Pat the Zombie — vividly illustrated by Kaveh Soofi and printed by the same Chinese house as the current edition of Pat the Bunny to accurately reproduce the original’s distinctive color palette, binding, and packaging — is a “touch and recoil” book that places the original against the backdrop of a zombie invasion that spares neither two-footed nor four-footed mammals.
The book’s graphic detail necessitates the cover’s clarification that the thing is for adults. Woe to the guardians of the toddler who stumbles on Zombie under the mattress!
Now, why would someone want to make a spoof like that? Particularly someone who is himself a parent? And the father of my children? To find out, I caught up with Ximm in the hallway outside our bathroom this morning.
Bernalwood: Why would you skewer such a beloved, benign children’s classic? Seriously. Aren’t there more appropriate topics for risqué parody, like the federal budget?
Aaron Ximm: It’s actually precisely the marriage of unshakable popularity and insipid content that made Pat the Bunny so plump a target. Some books are classics because they refuse to die. We just helped the process along a little.
How many million parents have gone glassy-eyed reading the curious imperative prose of the original to their offspring… over and over and over again? Pat the Zombie is for them. For us! We parents understand what it is to be half-alive.
Bernalwood: As anyone who was witness to Bernal Heights’ recent Easter egg hunt in Holly Park can attest, our neighborhood’s toddlers are a pretty savvy bunch. How would they fare during a real zombie invasion?
Ximm: Poorly, I’m sad to say. Poorly. Beating out little Hayden and Aiden, the twins from up the hill, for one last plastic egg is one thing. Possessing the focus, stamina, and wit required to fend off hordes of undead boxerdoodles and cockapoos is a whole ’nother thing.
Here in Bernalwood, our kids our coming up soft. Remember that commencement speech that was mis-attributed to Kurt Vonnegut? The one that said, “Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Well, it’s true; California can make you soft. Our kids should know how to bow-hunt the undead with chert-tipped arrows and eucalyptus bows after their supply of regular ammo runs dry.
Bernalwood: Troubling allegations have emerged that, during the writing of Pat the Zombie, you “beta-tested” the book on our three-year-old daughter. Aren’t you concerned about the effects such content might have on a developing mind? And even if your own empathic response is lacking, what about the potential for serious marital discord if these charges are substantiated?
Ximm: I prefer to think of this not so much as an early and unwitting exposure to our own culture’s relentless preoccupation with violent imagery, but as an essential rite of passage — akin to the Chod traditions passed from Bon into Tibetan Buddhism, in which the practitioner sits with the dead and visualizes their own mortality and decomposition.
And anyway, baby, she’s seen worse playing with your iPad since you always leave SafeSearch off. Remember that time she watched the trailer for Human Centipede?
Aaron Ximm will be reading from and signing Pat the Zombie at Dark Carnival (3086 Claremont Ave, Berkeley) from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.