Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Addams Thing

When I was a small boy, about seven years old, the kid at the end of the lane had a copy of The Penguin Charles Addams, a slightly oversized black and white paperback, and I used to go over to his house and read it, treating each cartoon as if it were a riddle or a puzzle to be unlocked or solved. With the exception of one cannibal joke ("Dinner smells lovely dear, who is it?" is the caption, in my memory) I didn't find them funny. I found them fascinating, and I'd stare at them trying to unpick them. Part of the attraction may have been how much the nameless Uncle Fester looked like Leo Baxendale's Grimly Feendish character from WHAM! and SMASH! comics (now rising from the grave in the Moore-Reppion-Oakley ALBION comics, of course) -- I didn't know then that Baxendale had nicked Grimly's look from the Addams character, or that he'd actually written for the New Yorker a few of the jokes that Addams had drawn...

So I'd stare at these drawings of people in haunted houses knitting baby clothes with too many limbs, or of ski tracks going around trees, or of one small face staring up at a screen with joy from which everyone else in the audience was staring at in horror, repulsed, and I'd work hard to figure out the story of the image, the what was going on, the why and the whether it might be funny, the what-happened-before and what-would-happen-after, and, one-by-one, they would make me happy. (Then again, I was a seven-year-old kid whose favourite short story was probably Bradbury's "Homecoming".)

And then the boy down the lane moved, and took his Charles Addams book with him, and it was another decade before I saw more Addams drawings and realised that the drawings and that-TV-Show-I-Saw-Once-But-Was-Never-On-Again-That-Wasn't-The-Munsters were related, and and another three decades before I too owned a battered and now pretty ancient copy of the Penguin Charles Addams. (I have other Addams books -- including one that he signed to Phil Silvers -- but that original one is my favourite.)

To this day, one of my favourite places in the world is the tiny Charles Addams art gallery on the third floor of the New York Library (follow the signs to the Mens' Toilets and it's just before you get there), and one of the things, almost forty years on, that I still enjoy from an Addams cartoon is the moment of "Huh?" before the moment of "Oh," and then the way that the world reconfigures.

The cartoon that follows was my Anansi Boys publication present to myself. (Thanks to New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss, who pointed it in my direction.) It just arrived, and I've taken it off to the framers, very happy.

While Blogger for some reason didn't want to show the image, the new Picasa "Blog This" button worked like a dream. (Or it did if this publishes properly.)

... and because the leap from Addams to Gorey isn't a huge one, there's a Gorey Font over at by Picasa