"Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking"
by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics)
This obscure delight now reissued for the first time in decades is brief, but enduring, especially when new Peanuts strips are such a thing of the past. Essentially the lost Charlie Brown mini-comic, "The Christmas Stocking" - the first story in this book - originally saw life in 1963 as a little insert to the December issue of Good Housekeeping, well before the legendary Christmas special had ever aired.
The second, "A Christmas Story," appeared in Woman's Day in December 1968 as the cover feature - a few years after the Christmas special had first appeared.
Each story shares some text and ideas with the legendary TV special, but to completely different ends. The first involves Charlie Brown's quiz zing of each cast member about their plans for hanging a Christmas stocking, which culminates in a hilarious existential crisis for him and sister Sally as tackle the problems of Christmas rituals in the suburbs.
The second is a philosophical satire of opposing views of Christmas, with Snoopy en countering explanations from both Linus and Lucy, and finding peril in listening to either, culminating in the sort of punchline only an atheist could love.
As with the best of Schulz's work, the humor alternates between deadpan and over the top, and the presentation of religion and holidays both is both irreverent and respectful at the same time. Schulz was a multi-faceted writer and could tackle contradictions through great simplicity. Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking stands as gift from the past that is greater than the size of the package. It's a real treasure.
"New York Drawings"
by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)
Gathering up cartoonist Adrian Tomine's illustration work for the New Yorker - there are a few comics, but this is mostly an examination of covers and spots for accompanying articles - the handsome art book "New Yorker Drawings" often get to the root of Tomine's world view as applicable to New York City and the urban experience together. So much of his work acknowledges that people are all in it together, and yet each individual is his or her own universe within the multiverse we call a city.
Tomine's illustration depicts a world where our personal perceptions are both separate from and integral to our shared ones. His work often incorporates two people, many of whom are either not acknowledging the central shared point between them, or clandestinely offering attentions to another person even as that other person is absorbed in his or her own moment.
These are quiet portraits of a jarring existence, and the components gather to present New York City as an organism as complex as any human.
In the most mesmerizing section of the book, Tomine's sketches of the city are presented with his handwritten observations of the person he draw.
Tomine suspects one girl of knowing that he was drawing her by the way she abruptly leaves the subway train. Much like so many of the people depicted in his drawings, these are interactions without interacting, and that is so much of urban life.
John Seven is the Arts and Entertainment editor of the North Adams Transcript. He can be reached by email at email@example.com