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BOOK REVIEW: Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz, Volume 19 & 20

| 29 April 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz, Volume 19 & 20
Allen & Unwin, rrp $29.99 each
25 March, 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Charles Schulz made his Peanuts comic strip his life’s work, with it running uninterrupted from October 1950 until his retirement from ill-health in February 2000, passing away the day before his final Sunday strip was published.

Along the way he made generation after generation fall in love or loathing with his un-ageing child and animal characters, tapping into the human condition so concisely and insightfully that none of us could fail to see echoes of ourselves in the academic under-achiever Peppermint Pattie, Goody-two-shoes Marcie, perpetually dirty Pigpen, sarcastic and belligerent Lucy, blanket-carrying and thumb-sucking but hard-as-nails Linus, completely focussed on his music Schroeder and, most of all, the prone-to-flights-of-fancy dog Snoopy and his depressed, lonely, ignored, beset-by-failure master, Charlie Brown.

Lauded by many as the best cartoon ever, Peanuts is indisputably the most influential – published here again are the complete collections of Schulz’s work from 1987 and 1988 (Volume 19) and 1989 and 1990 (Volume 20) – and has even been called (by Katherine Brooks in her ’10 of the best Snoopy moments to celebrate Peanuts’ 63rd anniversary’ piece of 2013) “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being”.

Schulz’s masterstroke was equipping these lovable children and animals with adult attitudes. Whether it’s Snoopy the World War One flying ace or World Famous surgeon or golf pro; Charlie Brown’s embodiement of every adult insecurity or his inability to win a simple game of baseball or fly a kite without getting it tangled in a tree, or his insistence on trying to kick a football held by Lucy, even though we know she will pull it out from under him at the last moment, we feel the same feelings as these characters, or at least we have done at some time in our lives.

When young Sally Brown delivers a school report on daytime and nighttime, concluding that “daytime is so you can see where you’re going… nighttime is so you can lie in bed and worry” we’re horrified that a child would think like that – but completely relate to having done so ourselves. Such is the genius of Mr Schulz.

Peanuts evolved over the nearly 50 years it ran, with new characters coming and going as society changed. These collections from the late Eighties find Schulz at the top of his game, with classic moments from all of our favourites, regular guests spots from Snoopy’s brother Spike, who lives alone in the desert with only cactii for company, and all the compassion and wonder of kids looking up at an adult’s world. Classic.


Category: Book Reviews

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