The only official website –- and, in all probability, the only factually correct website –- for the author Benjamin Hoff.
On June 28, 2012, I sent to the editor of Fantagraphic Books in Seattle the following essay, which includes several Charles Schulz drawings, as a proposed foreword to a future volume of the ongoing book series, The Complete Peanuts. I received no reply.
I have to say that I’m growing a bit tired of editors who have neither the professionalism nor the decency to respond to my submissions.
On October 30, I sent a copy of my essay and a cover letter to the Peanuts copyright holder, Peanuts Worldwide LLC, requesting permission to put the drawings in the essay on my website. I have received no reply.
Recently I decided to put the illustrated essay on my website, anyway. If Peanuts Worldwide wants to object, they can communicate their objection to me by way of the address or phone number on my letter to them. I made my request in good faith, and I have the Post Office receipt for my submission letter, as well as the evidence provided by USPS Delivery Confirmation.
I see no reason to continue to play the perpetual loser in a tiresome game of Snub the Author.
December 21, 2012
It intrigues me that Charles Schulz was a Sagittarian born in the Year of the Dog. As I’m a Dog Year Sagittarian myself, I know what that’s like. It’s like having a split personality -- in my case, Piglet/Tigger. So I’ll guess here that Charles Schulz had two similar inner facets, which found voice in his Peanuts characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy -- largely opposing facets that gave his strip emotional and intellectual breadth and depth that it otherwise might not have had.
Charlie Brown is classic, quintessential Year of the Dog -- the anxious watcher and worrier, convinced of his own inferiority, well acquainted with life’s anguish, ironies, and pathos. Charlie Brown lying awake in the night, asking himself questions about the meaning of existence -- could there ever be a better illustration of what it’s like to have been born in the Year of the Dog? I doubt it. As for Snoopy…
Snoopy is allegedly a dog. But he’s not like Year of the Dog, and not like any dog I’ve seen. As familiar as I am with dogs, I’ve never known a dancing beagle. Snoopy’s eccentric antics and heroic fantasies project the unmistakable spirit of Sagittarius: The sun is up, birds are singing, and we’re off on a great adventure -- it’s a happy day. Simple, carefree. Lots of laughs.
Although Sagittarius and Year of the Dog are in most ways opposite to each other, they have a couple of points in common, both (not surprisingly, I believe) found in abundance in Charles Schulz’s comic strip. The first of these is a nutty, sarcastic sense of humor.
The second point in common is a love of action: baseball, football, hockey…
…tennis, kite flying…
…and various other kinds of action.
Peanuts cartoons often remind me of Zen paintings. One could lecture about their Zen-like economy of line. When Charles Schulz had a story to tell, he didn’t seem to fuss about; he seemingly just wrote it and drew it and there it was. And there it is and always will be. How did he do it? How did he think of all that? How did he create so much? I wish I knew.
There is a third Peanuts character I’ll mention, in part because she’s my favorite of Charles Schulz’s creations and in part because she, like her creator and unlike any other Peanuts character, consists of a blend of Year of the Dog and Sagittarius in one complex, contradictory package: Peppermint Patty. I suspect that she’s her creator in disguise. I couldn’t prove that. But I suspect it.
Peppermint Patty, in her own sad-and-funny way, demonstrates that the deepest humor contains both happiness and sadness, both comedy and tragedy. The greatest philosophers, humorists, and clowns have recognized that truth. The comic characters and situations Charles Schulz wrote and drew in Peanuts go far beyond the shallow-gag humor found in most comic strips. They deal with what life is about, both pleasant and unpleasant, for all of us. And they go surprisingly deep -- not just deep-for-a-comic-strip, but deep.
Like the movies of the 1930s and 1940s, which helped Americans deal with the grim realities of the Great Depression and World War II -- and unlike today’s movies that more often than not make us more stressed, frightened, and depressed than we already were -- the Peanuts episodes make us feel good. I don’t think it would be overreaching to call them mass psychotherapy. Whatever familiar-to-our-experience problem the characters are confronted with, they help us laugh about it. Laughter can be very powerful healing and strengthening medicine. And healing, strengthening laughter is just the sort that Charles Schulz gave us. It was a great gift.
Text © 2012 Benjamin Hoff