"A few years ago, Reuel Denney entitled his fine book on American popular culture The Astonished Muse, and I suspect that that ancient tutelary must indeed be astonished by the purposes into the service of which Charles Schulz has so remarkably brought the art of the cartoon strip. This is, of course, a medium for which in the last decade or so we have often found it difficult to summon up the old affections of our childhood. For the kind of cheap catharsis that of late it has so frequently offered to an 'affluent society' and its equally frequent dedication to the ugly iconography of rape and flagellation and murder have tended to provide ample confirmation of Frederic Wertham's severe conclusion, that the chief effect today of the comic book and the cartoon strip is a depraving 'seduction of the innocent.'
"Yet it may well be that the kind of melodramatic horror with which we contemplate this material is sometimes too automatic, too reflexive, and that, as a result, our firm intention to be either patronizingly permissive or stringently hostile and censorious toward the very medium itself tends to blind us to the occasional triumphs that it achieves, of esprit and inventiveness and gaiety and fun. Mad, in its wildest moments, and Superman may, to be sure, strike us as unfortunate perversions of the kind of art that was finding expression a generation ago in Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy and Gasoline Alley. But, at the time when my own children had a far greater appetite for cartoon strips and comic books than they now have, though the 'enlightened' side of my mind told me that I should prefer them to be reading the antiseptic little fables of Lois Lenski, I could at least be somewhat comforted by the thought that Walt Kelly was still doing Pogo for them, that Al Capp's Li'l Abner wasn't always objectionable, and that they needn't therefore be wholly reliant on 'humor in a jugular vein.'
"And, as Robert Short is now reminding us, the art of the cartoon strip must not have been wholly corrupted if it can still afford a working medium for so scrupulous and lively an imagination as that
of Charles Schulz. For, in and through the fabulous little world of Charlie Brown and Lucy and Linus and Snoopy and Shermy and Violet, Mr. Schulz has been turning a remarkably penetrating searchlight on the anxieties and evasions and duplicities that make up our common lot; and, as Mr. Short fully demonstrates in this attractive little book, the analysis of human existence that Mr. Schulz is giving us is essentially theological and, in its basic inspiration, deeply Christian. Indeed, it is by way of 'the gospel according to Peanuts' that Mr. Short is himself enabled to reweave an interpretation of the Christian faith whose urbane simplicity will doubtless for many recall the apologetic style of C. S. Lewis: it is, in every way, a most engaging piece of writing, in its constructive theological aspect as well as in its interpretation of a significant body of popular art. And I expect that this book will quickly make a good place for itself in the affections of a large body of readers, both young and old." - Nathan A. Scott, Jr., Professor of Theology and Literature, The Divinity School, The University of Chicago
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