Friday, November 26, 2010

Sparky

7 Quick Takes Friday has been pre-empted due to a special birthday celebration (and because 7QTF's regular host, Jennifer Fulwiler, wisely decided to take a few days off).

I'll be back with another seven bite-sized morsels of bloggy goodness next Friday.


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Today is Charles Schulz's birthday. He would have been 88 years old.

There's something about this comic that's so perfect on Black Friday...

When I was a kid, although the newspaper my family subscribed to didn't carry Peanuts, I was a huge fan thanks to Peanuts books from the library and the holiday specials we watched every year.

A few weeks ago, Parade ran an article about Schulz, Lessons from The Great Pumpkin. Author Eric Konigsberg points out that over the years, people have read Linus's unflagging commitment to "the mythical squash" as everything from a defense of unwavering faith to a satire of religion:

As a child, I felt for Linus, whose faith in something unprovable was stingily rewarded, if at all, with the knowledge that he'd maintained his belief in the face of ever-increasing doubt. "If the Great Pumpkin comes, I'll still put in a good word for you," he calls out to Sally as she leaves him. "Good grief, I said, ‘If.' I meant ‘When he comes,'" Linus wails. "I'm doomed. One little slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?"

John Waters, the director behind such bizarro films as Cry-Baby, Hairspray, and Serial Mom, also grew up on a diet of Peanuts. As a kid in Baltimore, he was particularly fond of the Great Pumpkin TV special. "I always identified with Linus," he says. "He was not one bit embarrassed by what the others saw as foolishness. It gave me faith as a kid — faith to believe in strange things."

Still, the lessons learned from the Great Pumpkin depend on the viewer: The story can also be seen as an allegory of the irrationality of belief or as a satire of religion. "On some level," [Schulz biographer David] Michaelis says, "Schulz was showing us how some people would so much rather live with this craziness of false belief instead of just being quiet and resolute in their faith. He was saying, 'Be careful what you believe.'"
Here, I could probably go into great and detailed description of how Schulz captured the zeitgeist of several decades. Or I could write about how Peanuts affected me during my childhood, and which characters I most strongly identified with.

But I'd rather leave you with the wisdom Linus demonstrated on another holiday:



Happy Birthday, Charles Schulz.

~~~~~

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