The Giving Tree by (the one and only) Shel Silverstein, 1964

I know a girl who recorded a reading of this story. Then she imposed a strange, flutey, trancy music behind it. The result: an eerie, chilling, sad, sad tale. And that’s exactly what this is. Sad. And what does sad do? It tends to excuse simple things from being trite. Like many song-writers say: the easiest song to write is a sad one. So not too surprisingly, this is another one of those books you see on hipsters’ t-shirts. It’s found itself a place in the mainstream as a story that already appeals to adults. Do you ask why? Have you read it?

The Giving Tree deals with that issue that no one can or really wants to avoid, not even Poe or monster robots: the inexhaustible conundrum that love can hurt. And here, with his simple, sweet, yet somehow mildly grotesque little line drawings, Silverstein looks at the pure side of that pain, and lets his reader do the hurting. As you read, and the lop-sided relationship gets worse and worse, you keep thinking, Why the hell does that tree take so much crap from that kid? And while the tree feels fuller and happier as it is stripped away to nothing, the reader feels hurt and more hurt. Come on. We’ve all been there. That’s why, when we look in Silverstein’s mirror and see what the tree doesn’t see, we know that when we’re just a chumpy stump under the arse of an old, old, selfish love, we’ll probably be smiling too. Or it’s just a book about the beauty of loving someone else more than yourself. You could say that too.

Either way, thank you, Shel Silverstein for one of the most spot-on, reverberating stories about love and pain to come out of the 20th century.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s