Good grief, Franzen!
Jonathan Franzen is a Peanuts fan. Big time. It’s well documented in his memoir, The Discomfort Zone (excerpt here):
Like most of the nation’s ten-year-olds, I had an intense, private relationship with Snoopy, the cartoon beagle. He was a solitary not-animal animal who lived among larger creatures of a different species, which was more or less my feeling in my own house… He was the perfect sunny egoist, starring in his ridiculous fantasies and basking in everyone’s attention. In a cartoon strip full of children, the dog was the character I recognized as a child.
I bet he set Freedom in St. Paul just so he could visit Charles Schultz’s hometown and these sweet statues:
In The Discomfort Zone, Franzen draws parallels between Peanuts and his own life, but did he draw Peanuts into his fiction? Santa brought my boys a Peanuts collection this Christmas, and I’ve been compiling the Franzeniest strips. Here’s a selection with accompanying quotes:
Unnatural relationships with inanimate objects:
The night of Alfred’s seventh-fifth birthday had found Chip alone at Tilton Ledge pursuing sexual congress with his red chaise longue. (The Corrections)
Gary understood this feeling. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in three weeks. His circadian schedule was 180 degrees out of phase, he was revved all night and sandy-eyed all day, and he found it ever more arduous to believe that his problem wasn’t neurochemical but personal. (The Corrections)
Turning into the thing you hate:
His conception grew dropsical and comprehensive. What if he was the city? More than centrally located: the thing itself? (The Twenty-Seventh City)
Adult-speak (panel wasn’t in this collection, but the passage was too good to pass up)
“Noun adjective,” his mother said, “contraction possessive noun. Conjunction conjunction stressed pronoun counterfactual verb pronoun I’d just gobble that up and temporal adverb pronoun conditional auxiliary infinitive-” (The Corrections)
As an aside, we didn’t read Peanuts as kids, and I recently found out why: when my mom saw that Santa has brought the kids this Peanuts book, she told me that she hates Peanuts, and it’s the unfunniest comic strip ever. This was not an offhand comment; she was angry and rather suspicious of my (or Santa’s) motives. Henry adores it.
Love the Peanuts!
This is so fun! I never would have picked up on these connections. I had several well-loved Peanuts anthologies as a kid.
I think the thing I like most about Peanuts is the nostalgia. I was watching it at Christmas time with the kids, and got a kick out of their comments – “why does she keep calling her ‘sir’?”, “why doesn’t Charlie Brown have any hair?”, “why is her name Peppermint Patty?”…
I do love those Charlie Brown statues in your picture!
Adding St. Paul to my travel list…
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