Custard and Company Critical Context - Essay

Ogden Nash

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

As early as 1936, Ogden Nash was producing poems that centered either on children or on adults’ relationship with them. In fact, “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” was originally published in that year and collected in The Bad Parents’ Garden of Verses. Some of his most famous animal poems, such as “The Turtle,” appeared even earlier, in Hard Lines (1931). Thus, Custard and Company is in effect an anthology of some of Nash’s most representative work, containing as it does poems written at the beginning of his career in the early 1930’s and spanning three decades to include verse published at the peak of his powers in the early 1960’s.

Custard and Company shows a writer who, like James Thurber and Robert Benchley, to whom he has often been compared, holds a comic vision about life’s more mundane experiences. As a humorist, Nash often scoffs at himself as a representative of the “average guy,” a comic Everyman who invariably sees the incongruities in domestic relationships but never indicts the world at large or meanly satirizes it. Little in his wit suggests desperation or bitterness, only a wry awareness of life’s inanities. His poetic voice is sane, tolerant, and gentle.