All right. But this is the last one. I've got work to do.
Lee Siegel on the greatness of Chekhov
Bryan Appleyard on H.G. Wells and how sci-fi gets get no love
Jonathan Franzen on "Peanuts," back when it was good:
"Everything I do makes me feel guilty," says Charlie Brown. He's at the beach, and he has just thrown a pebble into the water, and Linus has commented, "Nice going. . . . It took that stone four thousand years to get to shore, and now you've thrown it back."...and a little bit on when it wasn't:
Everything about the billion-dollar "Peanuts" industry, which Schulz himself helped create, argued against him as an artist to be taken seriously. Far more than Disney, whose studios were churning out kitsch from the start, Schulz came to seem an icon of art's corruption by commerce, which sooner or later paints a smiling sales face on everything it touches. The fan who wants to see an artist sees a merchant instead.UPDATE: Time for a little honesty. As is famous in certain circles, I was never a big fan of "Peanuts" in my youth. All right, all right, I'm being honest -- I hated "Peanuts." I hated its saccharinity, its endless repetition, its jokes that made no sense. I grew up in the '80s and '90s, you have to understand -- not a good time for Schulz's work. Calvin & Hobbes was where it was at back then. Long-time readers are well aware of this.
I even seem to have the vague recollection of emailing Neil Howard Farbman on the occassion of Schulz's death with the phrase "Our long national nightmare is finally over" -- although it may have been Neil who emailed that to me, and frankly looking back on it I'd rather that it was. (I was a different, marginally worse person then. Year 2000. Crazy times.)
However, as so many Schulz apologists once tried to tell me, "Peanuts" really was great in the early years. Here's another one from Franzen's article:
Chapter 1, verses 1-4, of what I knew about disillusionment: Charlie Brown passes the house of the Little Red-Haired Girl, the object of his eternal fruitless longing. He sits down with Snoopy and says, "I wish I had two ponies." He imagines offering one of the ponies to the Little Red-Haired Girl, riding out into the countryside with her, and sitting down with her beneath a tree. Suddenly, he's scowling at Snoopy and asking, "Why aren't you two ponies?" Snoopy, rolling his eyes, thinks, "I knew we'd get around to that." My old self would hate to hear me say it, but I think I'd actually like to read that Fantagraphics collection -- at least up until it starts to suck.