Kirk's Reviews > Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
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Jan 09, 12

bookshelves: books-about-death
Read in January, 2007

“A great man in his pride . . .
 Casts derision upon

Supersession of breath;

He knows death to the bone

Man has created death.”

~William Butler Yeats

“Goodnight Moon . . . Goodnight Air. Goodnight noises everywhere”

~Margaret Wise Brown

There’s only one time in your life that you say goodbye to everything you’ve come to know and love . . . and even dedicate a little time saying goodbye to the things you’ve come to hate: the shitty bowl of mush growing cold on the night stand that your “old lady” tries to pass off as food, the filthy rodent that’ll probably leave droppings in said mush as you rest comfortably ETERNALLY. Because when you’re about to kick off, even the fecal matter your little brother leaves on the toilet after he forgets to wipe his butt is endearing, and the tasteless, formless garbage your nation has sold to you as “food” reminds you that's it's better to have the faculties to hate and loathe than to have nothing at all.

Most classic poets painted death with a palette of the morose and depressing. There was no room for cliché rhymes and red balloons in the classic written rendering of death, until Margaret Wise Brown came into the picture. In 1947, Brown threw out all the conventions established by previous poets writing about death, bidding folks like Yeats and Donne to say “goodnight air” as she peppered her death poetry with balloons, bears, and cows jumping over the moon.

Her work reminds us that death does not have to be a subject of woe. Death is best reminisced about with a cocktail of kittens and mittens, chairs and bears. The proverbial spoonful of sugar Brown gives to us with her stylistic rendering helps the medicine go down, as it were, continuing the discourse established by her predecessors and taking it in a direction desperately needed by people today. This is not just a book about a stubborn rabbit with OCD who will not go to bed until he lists everything in his room. This is a story about the human condition, and a celebration of our greatest collective vulnerability. Read. This. Shit.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Brad (new)

Brad Bloody genius, Kirk. I don't know why I never noticed that myself.

Manny I had never understood this book, but after reading your crystal-clear analysis I am no longer in doubt. Thank you.

Kirk My wife works at a library where this book is a top selection for people to read at children's funerals. After I found out about that, I've never been able to enjoy Goodnight Moon like I did when it was just a book about a rabbit going to bed. I have enough distance from it now to use the trauma as a means to mocking the literary criticism I had shoved down my throat in undergrad.

Shit . . . the truth behind my observation just ruined the humorous tone of my pompous, overblown analysis.

Manny A startling example of the hair-fine line between comedy and tragedy. Don't be surprised if you see it turn up in a Woody Allen movie.

message 5: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Hackle And don't forget the blank, stark-white, existential terror of the one page in the book that's devoid of illustration.

"Goodnight Nobody."


Kirk Douglas wrote: "And don't forget the blank, stark-white, existential terror of the one page in the book that's devoid of illustration.

"Goodnight Nobody."


I can't believe I got distracted by the mush on the opposite page and completely missed that when I looked through the book to review it. That page is a reader response critic's dream come true!

Andre Thank you for this review. I read this almost daily. You've given me a fresh look at it.

Kirk Andre: I could have sworn I said thanks for your kind words. Yet upon returning to this review, I don't see my response to your comment.

Thanks for taking a look at my reviews. Here's hoping we run into one another in the Goodreads community in the future.

Andre Kirk wrote: "Douglas wrote: "And don't forget the blank, stark-white, existential terror of the one page in the book that's devoid of illustration.

"Goodnight Nobody."


I can't believe I got distrac..."

That page has always slightly disturbed me. Goodnight Nobody? Goodnight abyss. Goodnight nothingness. Goodnight void. I love how she almost steers you into nihilism, but then dumps a bowl of mush on you in the next page to keep you grounded.

message 11: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Andre:

Perhaps the purpose of our existence can be boiled down to extremes, with meaning at one end and nothingness at the other. Then again, perhaps we can make life mean whatever we want it to, as if it is a viscous bowl of mush, shaped only by whatever contains it. Regardless, in the end we too must say goodnight.

This book is an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. Hope arrives, is dashed against stark reality, comes again, wavers as a nihilistic message appears, returns with a bowl of mush, then disappears at the end.

I"m going to be reading "Goodnight, Little One" tomorrow night. I wonder if it will prove as interesting as the book we're discussing.

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