Review: The Peanuts Papers

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It has taken me along time to work my way through the essay collection The Peanuts Papers. Life has been rather full. Some major personal things are going down; as a publisher I’ve put out two books this month alone (this week, a reprint of a Sergio Aragonés book that’s been out of print for half a century); as a writer, I’ve just agreed to my next book as well as to do an editorial scan on another book, and there’s a challenging graphic novel script that I’m being too slow about. But now I’ve read it all, and have time to put together my reaction.

It is, unsurprisingly for a work with pieces by so many authors, a mixed bag. The pieces that focus on the strip as a whole all would be reasonable introduction to a book of Peanuts strips (and indeed, that’s where some of them that are not original-for-this-book appeared), but in aggregate they are telling what you likely already know, and repeat between themselves. Pieces on individual characters are no less insightful and a little fresher.

Where this book really shines is when it gets into more personal reflections about how Peanuts has been involved in each author’s life, such as when former Paris Review editor Elissa Schappell discusses how she identifies with Sally Brown (a character I can not recall anyone ever identifying with before), or when NYT opinion writer Jennifer Finney Boylan states that “I suspected, even then, that my soul would never be as pristine as Pig-Pen’s” after confessing the string of infidelities she had perpetrated while she was still presenting herself as a man. These may not be the pieces that tell you the most about Peanuts (but then, don’t they? Even when they are talking about the impact of a piece of bawdy Peanuts-based graffiti on a troubled youth, aren’t they saying something about the place of Peanuts in the world?), they are more about telling you about the author and their experience, and they are (generally) better writing for it. (I will note, however, that the quality of the pieces seems quite independent of the reputation of the author.)

The book, at over 300 pages, takes a while to go through (particularly if you are overbooked and/or lazy, both me), and I cannot tell you which pieces you will like (although I will tell you that I liked the two that were done as comics; the poetry, not so much.) But it is, I think, a good addition overall to things that exist.

The book is available for immediate order from Amazon.

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