The Arrow Book Club. We were so lucky. Mum would always let me buy something. Just one book. But every time. I realise only now what a huge privilege that was – and what a golden opportunity. Books were encouraged always, and I’m trying to do the same with my son. There won’t always be money for movies and ice-creams but there’ll always (fingers crossed) be money for books.
And when I was the age my son is now I was into comics and cartoons – so it’s fun seeing him get into that now too. For me it was Garfield and Footrot Flats and a few other things. But maybe especially Peanuts. And particularly because of this.
It’s actually a short movie/TV special and then the book was released; based on the strips.
I’m no Peanuts die-hard, but I’d like to be. I’m reading a bunch of stuff about Schulz and the series and catching up on old volumes as and when I can.
And that all started when I found my copy of this book – an Arrow Book Club purchase.
Charlie is in a bike race and a (barely) disguised Snoopy is the hare to Charlie’s tortoise. Slow and steady does indeed win the race.
Buoyed by his victory – but dismayed to see that the prize is a bunch of free haircuts, which means nothing since Charlie’s dad is a barber and he has very little hair to begin with – he hopes to turn his new found luck into a winning streak. The book ends with Charlie throwing a pitch the next day in a baseball game, the team is used to getting crushed but he delivers a speech ahead of pitching, he’s found form, he’s on a roll, he’s competitive and he’s been rewarded and now it’s going to mean big changes, a whole new level of success all the time.
Turn the page and the ball is smashed back at Charlie, he tumbles, his clothes going everywhere.
He is a loser again. Just that easily.
What a brutal blow.
An incredible thing to read at 8 or 9 and an even more incredible thing to read in my mid-40s. I have taken this book out several times in the last few months, the timing of it, the pacing the placement of very few words. The reminder of the existential grind of being human.
It’s a heartbreaker. And beautifully so.
It’s also the book – and later the TV movie (since I saw that down the track) – that got me hooked on the Peanuts gang. I’m hooked again all over. Masterful storytelling, subtle humour, bleak and grim and crushing. Schulz understood the human condition, the grind and the frustration and the meandering greyness of the world. But he packed it with just enough jokes and such beautiful characters that even when that wasn’t the obvious lesson there was something else to learn as well.
Books That Blew My Mind is an occasional series here at Off The Tracks – thinking back on great books that I loved (and still love); books that found me at just the right time.