Jasper The Baffled Eel

Jasper The Baffled Eel is a brand new children’s book about an eel named Jasper who is baffled. What baffles him? Oh, just about everything that happens in his life as an eel. I don’t need to go into the details, as I am sure you can imagine yourself as an eel and tally up in your head all the things that would baffle you.

I say it is a children’s book, and that is indeed how it has been marketed by the soulless twerps in the marketing department of the publishing house. But I suspect the book may appeal more to older readers, very old readers, those in or approaching their dotage. It may even prove popular among those who have passed beyond dotage into death. At rest and encoffined, what better token of life to take with them, clutched in their cold stiff hands, than this baffling eely book?

There are no illustrations. Most of the words are simple ones, of one or two syllables, with only a few instances of longer or less common words, among which I noted flapdoodle, japonaiserie, and haemoglobin. Jasper the eel is baffled by these words, but you will not be, not even if you are dead, because nothing baffles the dead.

They say walls have ears, but birds and eels do not. They also say that Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, but try telling that to an eel. You will only baffle the eel, as Jasper is baffled, in a bravura display of realism. It may even be hyperrealism. There were certainly points in the book where I felt, vividly, that I had been plunged into the wide Sargasso sea. I was sopping wet and festooned with seaweed. Though it is fair to say that I am usually sopping and festooned, when reading books. It is, and always has been, my way.

Oh, Jasper! Jasper! Poor baffled eel. No longer a glass eel or an elver, with its life stretching before it, full of promise, but a full-grown adult eel, lost in the immensity of the world’s oceans and seas and rivers and lakes and other watery parts, watery parts that cover seven-tenths of this globe, with its magnetic bits and its vegetation and its eels. For Jasper is not alone.

But he is alone, in this book. Population of eels in its pages – one. One eel, but oh! how he fills those pages, turning up once, twice, even three times before it is time for you to turn the leaf. And that is not surprising, because this is his story. No other eel gets a look in, and nor does any other living creature, other than occasional mentions of a rabbit and a plover and a brass-necked goose. But these are incidental beings. They will, one day, have their own books, in which Jasper the eel may make a fleeting appearance.

I would have been interested to learn more, in this book, about eels and japonaiserie. But then, most people who know me well will attest that I constantly carp on about eels and japonaiserie, to the exclusion of other, perhaps more pressing, matters. I make no apology. Though I may never be transfigured into a sunbeam for Jesus, I have buttered my parsnips, and I will take them with me to the grave, instead of my copy of Jasper The Baffled Eel, which I will donate to an orphanage library, for the future edification of generation after generation of orphaned tinies, as baffled as Jasper by the complexities of this complex and baffling universe.

Now let us all sing Sag Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind?

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