When it comes to book reviews, I’m not a hard marker. I do not expect reviewers to do much research, show much discrimination, or set aside much prejudice. There are doubtless excuses, though I would not myself care to make them, for skipping some of the text of tedious books or for lightly reworking the material in the introduction. At a minimum, though, I expect the reviewer to have handled the actual book. Guy Rundle doesn’t pass this most elementary of tests.
His review (“Being and Nuttiness’) is headed
The comic-strip face of human folly has been bound into a double volume of 50,000 panels. Guy Rundle reaches for the Peanuts.
In the review Rundle says
… it was only a matter of time before they would be collected in full chronological order in two volumes, with introductions by the great and the good - Garrison Keillor and Walter Cronkite. Surprisingly, they bear re-reading en masse.
At the end we learn that
The Complete Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz, with introductions by Garrison Keillor and Walter Cronkite, Canongate, $45, is available now.
A second’s thought would have told Rundle that 50,000 panels, at five a strip, comes to ten thousand strips; at four a page, 2.5 thousand pages. The strip couldn’t conceivably fit into two volumes, and it doesn’t. There are about ten volumes out already, at around two a year, and the series has a long way to go.
This isn’t something you could miss on a quick reading. The dates covered by each volume are clearly printed on the spine and again on the front cover. Rundle might also have noticed that despite his references to The Great Pumpkin, the red-haired little girl, Peppermint Patty, and Woodstock the bird none of them appear in these early volumes; but that would have involved actually opening the book.
This isn’t just carelessness; it’s a firm statement of principle by Rundle and the review section that, whatever the fadwatchers say, comic strips aren’t real writing and don’t deserve the kind of attention that you’d give real literature. The Age wouldn’t give a new translation of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu to someone whose only contact with French literature was having as a youth watched Monty Python’s All-England Summarise Proust Competition skit, but they’ll hand over Charles Schultz to someone like Rundle who has neither any interest in comics nor any respect for them. My only consolation is that in another fifty years it isn’t going to be Rundle’s complete works that are still being read.
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