Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts
Chas Addams ~ Simon and Schuster, 1981

As many of you know from my other blog, I've made books a major priority in the upbringing of my son. Perhaps even the number one priority. And what all those books and hours and hours of story-times have helped to create, is not necessarily a die hard reader, but an avid storyteller and artist. 

At nine-years old, he would rather read a graphic novel over a straight novel, and will almost not really read anything unless it has a picture in it. Thanks heavens for fabulous authors like Chris Ridell (the boy's current favorite) who weaves fabulous art into equally fabulous stories. (BTW... If you are on Instagram and do not follow @chris_riddell, you are missing out. His sketchbook work is out of this world!) Trips to the book store now almost exclusively rotate around the graphic novel and humor section, where my son collects Tin Tin and Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes.

This summer while listening to NPR, my son heard a story on Charles Barsotti, the recently deceased and legendary New Yorker cartoonist, which opened up the now ongoing New Yorker cartoonist conversation in our house. A conversation that almost always inevitably ends up back at one of my childhood favorites, Charles Addams.

Granted, everything I learned about anything spooky always came from my older sister Drake. She read me aloud whole Stephen King novels as a child, showed me my first Edward Gorey book, and taught be to appreciate vampires and werewolves and zombies. And introduced me to Chas Addams, New Yorker cartoonist and master of the comic macabre.

This book has been making the rotation at our house of late, in a big way. The thing I always loved as a child about his work was the fact that the joke was not always evident at first blush. Much like Gary Larsen went on to perfect in The Far Side, the laugh is often visual and not in the words, and sometimes it takes an extra beat or two to sniff them out. As Robert Mankoff put it in an article on Addams for The New Yorker in 2010, "He tapped into that vein of American gothic that has a touch of paranoia about it, seeing behind every comforting fa├žade the uncomfortable truth about the duality of human nature. But where Gothic literature usually combined these themes with romance, Addams made the horror hilarious: disturbing, but at the same time friendly, identifiable, and acceptable."


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