I’ve added five new Peanuts books to the AAUGH.com Reference Library in the past three days, and life is full, so I’m playing catchup. Am I immediately reviewing The Peanuts Papers, the just-released book of essays about Peanuts by various members of the intelligentsia and the cool kids? Not right off – there’s about thirty essays in that book, and while I’ve read some of them before (about a third of them are reprints, the rest are new), it will take me a while to go through it all. So I’m knocking out some easy ones.
Snoopy Blasts Off! is the third of the four books in the recent McDonald’s Happy Meal set, and the one that I managed to miss getting at the restaurant and had to turn to the aftermarket for. This is a nice look at the International Space Station, with Snoopy and Woodstock on a mission up there to deliver snacks. There’s nice coverage of aspects of the station, and this volume’s special item is a pop-up of the station itself. The art is by the always impeccable Tom Brannon.
It’s the text by Justin Cooper that has me dwelling on the trickiness of translating Peanuts into prose. In the strip, we can see Snoopy thinking, and Woodstock issuing his mouthful of vertical scratches, and we can understand that they are communicating, even though we only directly understand Snoopy’s thoughts. It’s a show, don’t tell situation. That’s trickier in prose. When Cooper does have a statement for Woodstock to convey, We are given thought dialogue for Snoopy, using italics to make it literal, while Woodstock has his dialogue described rather than quoted (“Woodstock reminded Snoopy that he was also dressed as an astronaut.”) And the verb used to convey how Snoopy communicates the sentence varies. It leads off with “Snoopy thought”, which is a good choice, it grounds the telling in the real form of communication, and thus makes more acceptable things that suggest that Snoopy is actually vocalizing his statements. The various verbs used: “Snoopy continued”, “said”, “sighed”, “exclaimed”, “explained”, “asked”, “assured”, and “told”.
There was one phrase that opened a mystery I had not considered before: “Snoopy thought to himself”. I never really wondered whether Woodstock was capable of understanding all of Snoopy’s thoughts, or whether that applies only to directed thoughts. The question really is: is Snoopy a telepathic communicator, or is Woodstock a mind reader? This is a question of deep philosophic import only to those of us with nothing better to do.
By the way, for those of you interested in seeing more of the Peanuts/NASA projects, the new cartoon shorts will be available on Apple TV+ on that service’s launch date of November 1, so it’s just a few days away!