Mary Rodgers Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Mary Rodgers 1931–

American novelist, columnist, playwright, screenwriter, composer, and lyricist. Rodgers's books are humorous and entertaining portraits of the Walter Mitty-esque fantasies of the modern young adult. Imagination is a primary quality of her books, from the wildly wicked reveries of Simon in The Rotten Book to the fantastic transformation that takes place in Freaky Friday. Her settings are contemporary but the lessons her characters are taught are traditional morals associated with cautionary tales and ugly duckling stories. This moral element is not overtly obtrusive and the entertainment value of the stories remains high. Critics note, however, that her stories are so rife with current phrases, events, and commercial slogans that they are already becoming dated and may in the future become mere artifacts of the early 1970s. Rodgers also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Freaky Friday, and, in collaboration with her mother, Dorothy, writes a monthly column for McCall's magazine entitled "Of Two Minds." (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 49-52, and Something about the Author, Vol. 8.)

The Rotten Book is really two books, a worldly satire and a simple, rather old-fashioned cautionary tale. The trouble starts—for Simon and the reader—at the breakfast table where Simon is dawdling with his egg and his father is holding forth on a "rotten" little boy who's ungrateful for what he has (which matches what Simon has) and who's "going to land up in jail one of these days." Whereupon Simon, wondering what the boy did, goes through a day of being absolutely rotten to everyone and everything…. [At the end of the day] Simon is taken away handcuffed while his family cheers. "He'd probably spend the rest of his life in jail (and) never even get an egg for breakfast." Cut to the breakfast table where Simon praises the egg and proceeds to behave like a model boy. The father's self-righteous condemnation of a little boy is odd to start with, and if he and Simon's mother are going through this elaborate charade on behalf of an egg, it's ludicrous. Either way, father's letter-perfect pompous and in today's context (and today's plots), the child is supposed to rebel, not capitulate. If he were to rebel, jail's not the timeliest deterrent; if it's meant simply as a warning, there are others more suitable. And suppose he didn't eat the ∗∗∗∗ egg—would he have to feel rotten? (p. 926)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1969 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), September 1, 1969.

Gregor Samsa's "Metamorphosis" to insect form is no more disconcerting than the opening of Freaky Friday: "When I woke up this morning, I found I'd turned into my mother. There I was in my mother's bed … with my father sleeping in the other bed. I had on my mother's nightgown and a ring on my left hand." But once past the alarming Oedipal implications, which Ms. Rodgers mercifully ignores, this becomes a conventional situation comedy in which 13-year-old Annabel, whose mother has switched "bods" to teach her a lesson, tries unsuccessfully to cope with cooking, laundry, budgeting, and all that…. At the height of a company crisis mother switches back (just how is never explained)…. It all ends as a lesson in mother-knows-best, and the rest is like the silly TV show you hate yourself for laughing at … but can't stop. (p. 267)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1972 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), March 1, 1972.