Ah Sweet Mystery of Life
Finally. At last. Proof that dreams indeed come true. The complete works of
You know those nights.
At the Amazon site, Art Spiegelman --no less -- delivers the encomium:
By the 1980s the once glorious newspaper comics section had become a wasteland, ravaged by shrinking space, editorial timidity and other ills. The real excitement in my medium had moved to the fertile margins of the alternative press. Bill Watterson, as uninterested in underground comix as I was in the mass media's bland concoctions, marched directly into the wasteland and made the comatose syndicated strip form kick up its heels and dance.From 1985 until Watterson abandoned it at the height of its popularity 10 years later, Calvin and Hobbes echoed the classic strips the artist most admired. Stirring the richly conceived characters and efficient drawing of Peanuts with the visual virtuosity and linguistic playfulness of Pogo and Krazy Kat, he applied his intelligence and supple cartoon skills to come up with a creation beloved by the millions who still mourn its passing."Mourn" is exactly the right word. Watterson has inspired those who followed him as surely as he was influenced by his comic forebears. But his inspiration has alighted not just on would-be comic strip artists; Calvin has influenced us all. Or is it Hobbes? Could you choose between Bertie or Jeeves? Of course not; in each case it is a "both-and" story. You cannot envision one without the other.
That happens with real people sometimes, too. Twins, perhaps. Or very close siblings. Or long-married couples. My cousins, Buster and Tommy, were such two. They were Irish twins (i.e.,born about ten months apart). Wherever you saw one, there was the other. Until they were adults, I don't think I ever said their names separately, not even to myself. Why would I, since they themselves were inseparable? The strongest memory I retain of them is from their middle childhood: I was about to be married and everyone was busy with the preparations. It was mid-May -- magnolia time in Florida. The morning of my wedding, Tommy and Buster climbed the huge trees to bring down large, fragrant blossoms for the church hall. I can see those sneakered feet disappearing into the high branches; I can hear the blossoms and buds falling through the leaves to hit the mossy ground below.
Buster-and-Tommy grew up, flew the nest, and banked away in different directions. But they stayed close, always brothers, always friends. And then, Tommy, the youngest of six brothers and sisters, was the first to go. Beaten by the ravages of diabetes and an appetite he could neither master nor understand, Tommy gave up. So now it's only Buster, no Tommy.
Time can be cruel beyond speaking.
Because Calvin is making his reappearance with Hobbes, I am reminded of those funny, freckle-faced boys. And because Calvin is returning, so are the days of my son's childhood, his little five-year-old face buried in the pages of Something Under the Bed is Drooling. I can still see him standing on the porch that Thanksgiving, I can hear his little Elmer Fudd voice reciting from memory:
Another night deprived of slumber,Of course, it's easier to keep some memories in mind when you have a video of the performance. It was then, watching the images and hearing my son's piping little voice, that I discovered he had a prodigous memory and a flair for Latinate words. With Calvin taking the lead, it's no surprise that years later the Boy won his own National Latin Prize and can write sonnets and sestinas with ease (if memory serves, his first sonnet -- in homage to Charlie Brown -- was to a red-haired girl).
Hours passing without number.
My eyes trace round the room. I lay
Dripping sweat and now quite certain
That tonight the final curtain
Drops upon my life’s short precious play.
From the darkness by the closet
Comes a noise much like a faucet
Makes: a madd’ning drip drip dripping sound.
It seems some ill-proportioned beast,
Anticipating me deceased,
Is drooling poison puddles on the ground
And now the entire span of Calvin's adventures are here between hard covers. No more limp, wilted and well-used copies of the separate books...except, except...here's what one reviewer says:
This is definitely an archival collection and not ideal for constant casual perusing, though the attractiveness makes it hard to resist. The printing, layout, paper, binding are beautiful but any wear and tear would be heart-breaking. This leads me to describe one drawback: these books aren't really hardbound books. They look so, because of their hard covers, but actually they are what's called "cardboard articles", meaning the pages are not stitched to the spine, and instead glued. Albiet, this is common book binding practice, but I'm sure most of us wouldn't have minded paying some more for real hardbound articles for the sake of longevity in preservation. So although this collection is best left for archival purposes, it's unfortunate they are not exactly archival quality.In other words, of course we have to buy this Sunday-best collection -- how could we not, if only to bring Calvin back for a moment? But now we know to hang on to the tatterdemalion copies we already have, just for love.
Now we know...this collection is Sunday best, not meant for the bathroom. As for the publisher's decision not to take the binding of these pages as seriously as he ought have, I am even now making up a little doll to look like Andrews McMeel Publishing. And I am arranging the stick pins to use on my effigy of an obviously venal and mendacious operation.
This application of karma is something I learned from Calvin. I'm sure he would do no less.