- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Snoopy generation

“In [1970], as the so-called generation gap was rending the cultural landscape, Charles Schulz’s work was almost uniquely beloved. Fifty-five million Americans had seen ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ the previous December, for a Nielsen share of better than 50 percent. The musical ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ was in its second sold-out year on Broadway. The astronauts of Apollo X, in their dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing, had christened their orbiter and landing vehicle Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Newspapers carrying ‘Peanuts’ reached more than a hundred and fifty million readers, ‘Peanuts’ collections were all over the best-seller lists, and if my own friends were any indication, there was hardly a kid’s bedroom in America without a ‘Peanuts’ wastebasket or ‘Peanuts’ bedsheets or a ‘Peanuts’ gift book. Schulz, by a luxurious margin, was the most famous living artist on the planet.

“To the countercultural mind, a begoggled beagle piloting a doghouse and getting shot down by the Red Baron was akin to Yossarian paddling a dinghy to Sweden [in the novel ‘Catch-22’]. The strip’s square panels were the only square thing about it. Wouldn’t the country be better off listening to Linus Van Pelt than Robert McNamara? This was the era of flower children, not flower adults. But the strip appealed to older Americans as well. It was unfailingly inoffensive … and was set in a safe, attractive suburb where the kids, except for Pigpen … were clean and well-spoken and conservatively dressed. Hippies and astronauts, the Pentagon and the antiwar movement, the rejecting kids and the rejected grownups were all of one mind here.”

Jonathan Franzen, writing on “The Comfort Zone,” in the Nov. 29 issue of the New Yorker

Babbits vs. elites

“Babbittry is the idea that the average Joe lives within the passionless routine of marriage, the tyranny of consumerism and the regimentation of small-town civic life. Babbittry judges Joe to live in a benighted, blinkered spiritual state, a gay-bashing, beer-drinking redneck whose Taliban tendencies want to ban dancing, rock-and-roll and R-rated movies. People who don’t live in New York, Hollywood or divide their time between Virginia, Hyannis Port, or Nantucket estates and their Georgetown mansions view the rest of us as Babbitts. Who can blame them? When was the last time, say, Tina Brown, spoke with anyone not famous?”

Taki, writing on “Revolting Elites,” in today’s issue of the American Conservative

The antidote

“Tom Wolfe takes no point of view, has no bill of goods to sell. He just calmly, coolly records the way things are, the way people look and talk, the commonplace, mostly harmless, prejudices and solidarities that have survived 30 years of relentless media and educational indoctrination against them. …

“I don’t know how the future will rank Tom Wolfe as a novelist, but he is a simply terrific journalist. Oh, sure, he exaggerates some when writing fiction to get the effects he wants; but you could put a Wolfe novel under a steel-mill press and not squeeze a single drop of sentimentality out of it. … Our society is awash with the grossest kind of sentimentality in movies and TV, saturating the sappy nostrums of the Sunday magazine-supplements and corporate mission statements, pouring in from self-help cranks, victim-industry moaners and weepers, love-the-world useful-idiot politicians and Oprah-fied pain-feelers. Wolfe is the antidote to all this sugary glop.”

John Derbyshire, writing on “Man Is Wolfe to Man,” Friday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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