Biography/Memoir, Comics, Reviews

Funny Like Sunday Morning

I don’t remember a time when I did love Charles Schulz’s brilliant comic strip Peanuts, first encountering Charlie Brown and friends through their holiday TV specials – it isn’t Halloween until you’ve sat in that pumpkin patch with Linus anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, and you know it is Christmas when the gang starts singing around the once sad, lonely little tree.  Once I learned to read, one of my favorite things was poring over the Sunday funnies.  The simplicity of those three or four panels makes comic strips appealing to young readers.  I’ve never lost that joy.

December 23, 1952

It wasn’t until I re-read some of my favorites, particularly Peanuts, that I realized that they aren’t written for children.  As a child, I thought that the funny page was a section specifically for children but there are ideas and jokes in the comics that you only understand with age.  So now, while I still read the daily comics, I also go back to the books of comic strip collections I’ve been collecting since childhood and get more out of them than ever.  Peanuts, in particular, has more to offer as the reader experiences more of life.

The latest addition to my collection is The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1:  1950-1952PeanutsThese earliest strips are not the Peanuts I know and love but it is fascinating to watch the strip evolve from its somewhat meanspirited beginnings to something more recognizable as Schulz added characters and they came into their own. What is really great about this particular collection, is the biography and the lengthy interview with Schulz that appears at the end of the book.  These sections are entertaining and informative about the great cartoonist and the art of comic strip creation.

While Peanuts is considered to be the gold standard of modern comics, here are a few of my other favorites:  

Garfield by Jim Davis (mostly for nostalgic reasons)

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston (the chronological story is like watching a soap opera but with better writing and a better sense of humor)

The Far Side by Gary Larson (that twisted sense of humor)

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott (Hammie is a direct descendant of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and if I had a daughter, I feel like she would be a lot like Zoe)

Arlo and Janis by Jimmy Johnson (it’s almost like the creators have cameras on my parents)

 Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (in my opinion this is the pinnacle of comic strip artistry and humor).  

Biography/Memoir, Reviews

Review: Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I typically stay away from non-fiction and I had no previous interest in horse racing so I probably wouldn’t have read Laura Hillenbrand’s fabulous Seabiscuit: An American Legend if I didn’t absolutely love the film version with its edge-of-your-seat action and subtle, intelligent humor. Those qualities came from the book. Even though I know (a version of) the story, I found myself tearing through the passages about the races with rapt attention as if I were sitting in the grandstand and laughing out at the wicked humor, especially that of Tom Smith. Most importantly, though, I learned so much about the sport, about the people that are a part of the sport, and the history of our country at a tumultuous period.
The first part of the book moves a bit slower than the rest of the book as Hillenbrand introduces the reader to a multitude of characters with an intimate focus on Charles Howard, Tom Smith, Red Pollard, George Woolf, and, of course, Seabiscuit. So at first, I was afraid that my preconception about non-fiction, that it is dull and minutely detailed, might be true of Seabiscuit: An American Legend. I am so glad that I was wrong.

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Biography/Memoir, Reviews

Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned a few things about myself while reading Under the Tuscan Sun. I’m not a fan of non-fiction most of the time. I need a story to immerse myself into. What I learned is that that is particularly true for road trips. I thought that Mayes’s unique descriptions of Tuscany would transport me while I was transported to my destination. It didn’t always work but I did find myself seeing my surroundings differently. With more of a writer’s eye, I hope.
Mayes’s descriptive language was transportive. I could smell the fresh earth and all the life it supports; I could see the ultra-saturated colors of the sunflowers, poppies, clothing, and building materials; I could feel the intensity of the summer sun making siesta time so necessary; I could taste all of the incredible dishes made only with fresh local ingredients. And it left me wishing that my seventeen-year-old self had been capable of appreciating all the sensual delights of Italy while I was there.
Under the Tuscan Sun, despite all the descriptions of hard labor Frances and Ed went through to restore Bramasole, left me feeling romantic about Italy, especially the Tuscan and Umbrian regions, and longing to return. To spend long days just exploring the beauty hidden in the details.

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