Happy Anniversary, Archive!

I admit that for some reason, anniversaries hold a lot of meaning for me. Whenever my or someone else’s birthday rolls around, I usually celebrate it in some fashion. So it wouldn’t occur to me to forget about this website here. It’s been a hell of a year, that’s for sure.

I hope that this website has served a worthwhile purpose for Shel Silverstein fans, regardless of how and why they became so. I started the Archive barely a month after I discovered Shel. I still remember the day pretty clearly. It was a Saturday in early February, and my roommate was sick that day and decided to trot out her first edition copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends and read from it aloud. As she did so, and I started remembering how much I loved A Light in the Attic as a kid, I started to wonder just who this guy was and what information there was about him on the Internet. That afternoon, I searched, and a few minutes later, I found myself at Carol’s Banned Width–the best, then and now, Shel site on the Net. As soon as I set my eyes on “Uncle Shelby’s ABZ”, I was hooked. I read a few lyrics, and suddenly, I realized that my entire sense of humor and sense of self had a mirror. I guess Shel became somewhat of a kindred spirit for me. He still is.

So in that month Carol and I became email buddies and I started researching like crazy. I would spend hours at the library, poring over biographical indices, bound copies of the New York Times Theater Review, and soon I was spending even more time in the microfilm room at the McGill Library, going through all the newspapers and magazines they had which had any reference–however slight–to Shel. At first I passed all this newfound information to Carol–who duly put it up as “book reviews,” “play reviews,” or whatever it was–but soon I realized that what I was finding, which tended more towards criticism and secondary sources than song lyrics and anecdotes, deserved its own site.

Hence, the Archive was born. And I haven’t looked back since.

And being an anniversary, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to reflect on some important things. First and foremost, I highly doubt this site would have racked up over 34,000 hits had it not been for Shel Silverstein’s death in May. I remember that day all too well not only because of the news but because of the impact it had. The best evidence is Carol’s guestbook at the Banned Width. For over a week hundreds, maybe thousands, streamed in to offer their thoughts about Shel. There were people who knew him well, who had encountered him a couple of times but still had an important story to tell, and there were the fans who were crying over the loss of their favorite poet. All of them were significant, and I know I spent hours “hanging out” over there, reading every single message that got through. It was a strange period.

And because I had the Archive up, I got lots of email expressing the same sort of thing. It was that day when I truly realized the power of the Internet. Where else could strangers come together to mourn the loss of one of the most unique individuals ever to have graced the planet? I’ve always hoped that there could be some kind of similar outpouring this coming May 10, but rather than it being an Internet-only thing, that it be a real-life place for people–famous or not, friends or fans–to get together to celebrate Shel. Since it’s March, I guess it’s a tall order. But a girl can dream...

A second thing is that even though I did and will continue to contribute to the Archive in some capacity, it wouldn’t have come so far had it not been for various visitors who donated pictures, blurbs, information and stories, from the plays to a birth and death date for Shel’s daughter. There have been many, so if I thank individuals I know I will forget some. So to all, thank you so much–and I hope that more of my unanswered questions will get answers in the next year, or beyond.

And finally, I must admit that I am a little unsure as to the direction the Archive should be taking. When I started it, I intended it to be a resource for people looking for hard-to-find information. There are reviews, analyses, excerpts and lists. Basically, it’s an extension of all the things I like to find out and hope that other people do, too. But I also admit that I want to do more, somehow. Shel Silverstein led such a fascinating life, encountering so many people, famous and non, who not only called him friend, but as one of his cronies put it to me, “loved him without consideration.” He was complex, quirky, sick-minded, impossible, hedonistic, introspective. It seems that I come across a new contradiction about him with astonishing frequency. Here is a man who did not marry (contrary to popular belief), who never could “settle down”, so to speak, but treated the mothers of his children with respect and maintained good relationships with them even after their personal unions had ended. Although I believe that I’ve contributed quite a bit to what information is available now, and that this information has increased dramatically in the last year, I still feel there is frustratingly little known about him. I’m a curious woman; I always want to look behind the facts and find out as much as possible and wring out the details until there is absolutely nothing left. And although it surprises me from time to time, I am still as fascinated by Shel Silverstein as I was a year ago. Is it any wonder that I want to know more? In any case, I am not sure what this all means. I have half-formed plans, some ambition, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of research–but what this all adds up to, I haven’t really any idea. But when I do, you’ll hear it here on the Archive first.

So happy anniversary, and I hope you’ll all keep coming back. I like to think of it as a bit of a library; it’s not the best organized place in the world, but there are interesting little gems to be found here and there, if you look in the right spots.