I picked up Winkie by Clifford Chase because I thought it would be hilarious. Winkie is a teddy bear who comes to life, runs away from home, and is eventually mistaken for a terrorist and put on trial. But Chase eschews “Farce=Funny” literary convention, crafting a brilliant and surprisingly poignant allegory about the loss of innocence and how it may be recaptured through memories.
We begin with Winkie's recollections of his early life:
"He had never been smaller than he was now...but he had once been like a baby just the same. It was a time when he wasn't even Winkie yet, when he wore a white blouse and black velvet dress, and he belonged to the little girl Ruth. He could almost hear her calling to him across time, 'I love you, Marie.'"
The story alternates between Winkie's wistful memories of his early life as a beloved toy, his life in the woods after he ran away and found a bear cub to call his own child, and his present status as an imprisoned terrorist suspect.
"It could be said that the whole of the bear's life as a toy formed one long incantation that produced, at last, the miracle of his coming to life. Winkie had hoped to understand that incantation through recollection, maybe even to reproduce its magic and thus regain his freedom."
Remembrance as self-actualization is a constant thread throughout the tale. Just as Winkie is spurred by memories to will himself to life and mobility, Chase suggests that revisiting those things that fed our spirit as children can recharge our spirit as adults.
“In the dream and in remembrance of the dream, inside and outside, a hated thing might be let go, might fly off, might weep, and then the wider world could unfold again in small clicks…the rose in the coloring book, the rose of the world and hope.”
The book includes photographs of Winkie, his childhood home, and the "Killer Bear Manufacturing Facility." While sly humor abounds in this little gem of a book, you'll want to read it for its heart and the lyrical ring of the language. This is a grown-up fairy tale that will stay with you long after you've stopped reading.
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