WILLIAM H. McNEILL

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497

"On a beautiful day like this it would be best to stay in bed so you wouldn't get up and spoil it," says Charlie Brown in Charles M. Schulz' latest triumph, You're Something Else, Charlie Brown. To review it is like getting out of bed—too risky to be undertaken seriously; safe only for the light-hearted. And if you're lighthearted you may read it and chuckle or smile, but chuckles and smiles have never made it in English orthography, even with the license accorded comic-strip artists. So let us merely say hurrah and pass on swiftly to some earnest thoughts about the Charlie Brown phenomenon in general, and another and far less successful Charlie Brown book in particular [You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown].

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The celebrated Pooh perplex perploxed the Depression generation of privileged children and parents—those, that is, who could afford two bucks for a book of sentiment—and whumsy. But the present pullulation of Charlie Brownisms utterly dwarfs what went before. Who can pooh-pooh the eclipse of Pooh? By who? By you! But what did you do? Why, read Charlie Brown instead.

What does it signify? A coming of age of American culture? The apartments of New York instead of the purlieus of Kensington Gardens as exercise ground for childhood imagination—and parents, too, of course?

Or are we playing a freudulent trick upon the young by offering them not one but a whole company of anti-heroes to feel superior towards or learn from, as the case may be?

Or is it the new psychological perspective—the knee-high view—that recognizes big sister as a tyrant, and the ability to catch a baseball as the pinnacle of manly success?

All of these, no doubt, plus merchandising skills, the mass media boys in the back room will have, and the antic imagination that first generated Linus and Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and Charlie Brown within the straitened frame of a daily newspaper comic strip.

The peculiarities of that art form survive in large degree in the musical "Peanuts."… Deprived of music and spectacle, most musical comedies are poor things; the same, alas, is true here. There is no plot, no overall structure; no movement of pace or tone that runs through the whole in any pattern I could perceive. It is, in short, a comic strip in two acts.

William H. McNeill, "The Peanuts Perplex," in Book World—Chicago Tribune (© 1968 Postrib Corp.), June 2, 1968, p. 17.

If there is anything being written, drawn or scored for tuba that's funnier or indeed wiser and more human than the daily doings of Charlie Brown, crabby Lucy, Linus-of-the-security-blanket, Schroeder and of course everybody's favorite beagle, Snoopy himself, we'll have to be shown. ["Peanuts Treasury"] contains the best of ten years of Peanuts cartoons, and in our library ranks with the First Folio of Shakespeare. (p. 65)

Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the September 16, 1968, issue of Publishers Weekly by permission, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1968 by Xerox Corporation), September 16, 1968.

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