This morning I was working on text for the UK edition of January’s catalog. (The UK has a special version of PREVIEWS with more pages and UK-specific items.) And I worked on the text for Canongate’s edition of The Complete Peanuts Volume 25: 1999-2000.
The final volume.
A wave of emotion washed over me that I wasn’t expecting at all. This is it, the end. A journey that began back in 2004 is nearing its end. I knew it would be soon — just last week, the twenty-fourth volume, covering 1997 and 1998, with Rerun on the cover, came out — but I’m not ready for this to end. Not yet.
The truth is, the ending of Peanuts has always carried emotional freight with me, and not simply because Peanuts was always a part of my life. The way the strip ended and the circumstances around its ending — Charles Schulz dying as the final strip went to press, as though with his life’s work done there was nothing left for him to do — touched me deeply, and even now I find some of the strips of the final few years difficult to read.
What follows is an e-mail I wrote the evening of February 13, 2000, the day the final Peanuts strip ran. I look at it now with some embarrassment; I conflated Royanne Hobbs and Peggy Jean in my mind, and I was sure then (and am sure now) that Charlie Brown really did kick that football in the late 1999 strip where Rerun held the ball.
I thought nothing of my necktie choice this morning. The news was impossible to avoid; Charles Schulz had passed away. As I was dressing for work, then, there was no real choice; it would be a Snoopy tie. The only choice, then, was which Snoopy tie it would be — the Valentine’s Day tie, an obvious choice given Monday’s holiday? The Snoopy baseball tie, in light of the impending start of spring training? Any of two dozen other Peanuts ties in my collection?
The choice came down to Starry Night. The tie is as the Van Gogh painting of the same name, Woodstock and his relatives alight in the night, Snoopy sleeping atop his doghouse in the foreground, the heavens above painted in the dark, heavy manner as Van Gogh had done. And written on the backside of the tie, the caption: “Goodnight, Vincent.”
Goodnight, in more ways than one. Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and Linus Van Pelt and Rerun and Pepperment Patty and all the rest, gone to another place. And Peanuts, the last Sunday strip, the last original strip ever, running today in the newspapers. Charlie Brown would be no more. Snoopy would never again fight in the trenches of Flanders, joust with the Red Baron in the skies, dream of writing the Great American Novel. Lucy could never dispense her useless psychobabble to another unwary listener, pull away the football from the luckless Charlie Brown yet one more time.
Revisiting the past, revisiting one’s youth, is never a wise action. But I will always revisit the past of Charlie Brown and his friends, as long as the old strips are reprinted in whatever their form. Revisit the storylines that I read as a child with the understanding of an adult. Stories such as Charlie Brown’s first girlfriend (Roy Hobbs’ great-granddaughter, no less), Rerun starting Kindergarten, Charlie Brown’s first baseball victory, the time he finally kicked the football that Lucy had always pulled away.
Childhood ends, but in the world of Peanuts, childhood will never end, so long as we empathize and understand.
That’s the place where the profound sadness I felt as I copyedited and formatted Canongate’s suggested text came from. Oh, there is the new Peanuts Movie, which I thought was splendid. And the comic books from BOOM!, which I’ve in the main enjoyed. But the original thing, the thing itself, its great reprinting project will draw to a close in a few months, and I will again face the ending of Peanuts and all the sadness therein.
And, as for the day’s news, I have nothing to say about it but this:
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) November 14, 2015