Everybody loves Peanuts, right? And I don’t think you can love Peanuts without loving Snoopy. Snoopy has long been one of my favorite comic strip characters, mostly because of his wonderful flights of imagination. Enjoying writing as I do, you’d think I’d jump at Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life, edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz. So there’s a bit of mea culpa here when I admit that this was a Dusty Bookshelf Challenge book.
How long has it been on my shelf? I honestly don’t know. It’s been sitting on a rarely-visited bookshelf for what feels like always and must have been at least a few years.
I almost never buy unread books, so how did I get it? I don’t know…somehow I got it, and I don’t remember how, so I hope it wasn’t a gift from someone who reads my blog!
Now that I’ve read it, am I keeping it? Yes, mostly because the comic strips are so fun. More on that in a moment.
I’m counting this one for my Nonfiction Challenge too, because it’s certainly not a novel, and there’s enough text that I don’t think it has to be considered a comic strip collection either.
As Snoopy fans know, the famous beagle aspires to be a famous author. Thus the iconic image of Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse, typing “It was a dark and stormy night” on his typewriter. This book brings together numerous writing-related Peanuts strips, with brief writing advice from 32 authors.
The book starts a bit slow, or maybe just takes too long to get going. There’s a foreword from Monty Schultz (Charles Schulz’s son) and an introduction from Barnaby Conrad, both about Charles Schulz and writing. The topic is interesting, but I think they would have done better to have one of them write, or to maybe move one essay to the end. It’s too much on one subject, while we’re waiting to get to the main event.
But once we do get to the main event, the Peanuts strips and the writing advice, it’s a lot of fun. I don’t think any of the writers put something down here that was life-changing for me, but they have good advice about writing and publishing, or sharing their writing adventures or the adventures of other writers they’ve known or admired. I’m always interested in other writers’ processes and experiences. Some of the advice ties directly into a particular Peanuts script, which is especially engaging.
The best part of the book, though, was the Peanuts comic strips. It’s all about a beagle tapping away at a typewriter, and yet Schulz managed to get at essential truths of the writing life, and be very funny besides. It may be an odd thing to say about an aspiring writer beagle, but Snoopy’s experiences are universal. The struggle to begin, the difficulty of finding the right word, the well-meaning but ill-placed advice from others, the love of your own words even when you know (or suspect) they’re not very good. Who hasn’t written something awful that nevertheless made them laugh, making it very hard to let go of? Snoopy does a whole series of really horrid puns at one point: Edith had refused to marry him because he was too fat. “Why don’t you go on a diet?’ a friend suggested. ‘You can’t have your cake and Edith too.”
Some of my favorite strips are when Snoopy tries to sell his stories, and keeps getting vast numbers of dreadful rejection slips.
Dear Contributor, we have received your latest manuscript. Why did you send it to us? What have we ever done to hurt you?
Dear Contributor, we are returning your worthless story.
Dear Contributor, we’ve seen better writing on license plates.
In my experience, agents and editors are actually extraordinarily polite in their (form) rejections, but Schulz has still captured what it feels like! And Snoopy’s responses are spot-on too.
Dear Editor, why do you keep sending my stories back? You’re supposed to print them and make me rich and famous. What is it with you?
I’m also a bit amazed by the level of the literary references in some of these strips. Snoopy frequently aspires to be Leo Tolstoy, and there are references to Thomas Hardy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Little Women, Moby Dick, Ben Hur… Peanuts is wonderful proof that comic strips can be intelligent and insightful–and funny, of course!
In some ways, this book really is more of a guide to the writing life than to writing. I don’t know that I learned much about writing, but it was good to see that even Snoopy experiences the same ups and downs of the writing life!
Peanuts website: http://www.peanuts.com/