Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Talk: ‘Happily Ever After’

Happily Ever After: A Collection of Cartoons to Chill the Heart of Your Loved One [Kindle edition] by Chas Addams

This is not a new book, nor is it one I read recently. It is, however, a book to which I have strong nostalgic ties, which makes it all the more surprising that I didn’t mention the book before now.

To begin, the review I left on Amazon’s site (via Goodreads):
This is a collection of cartoons by Chas Addams, many of which had been unpublished. They give an overview of Addams' offbeat and often macabre humour. His cartoons inspired the 1960s TV series "The Addams Family", and some of the cartoons in this collection hint at that.

One drawback with the Kindle edition is that the captions are sometimes on a different page than the cartoon they refer to. Not the end of the world, sure, but it interrupts the flow and the visual aesthetic of what is mostly a book of illustrations.

I bought this book because my parents had a copy of his book, "Addams and Evil" when I was growing up, and I spent many hours looking at that book. Fortunately, some of those cartoons are included in this collection, along with ones I'd never seen. Together, they reminded me of what I liked about Addams all those years ago.

All of which makes this a good basic collection of Addams' cartoons, though it would be nice to see some of his older books re-issued. Still, it's a good place to start.
That review because is the gist of what I think of the book, including the flaws with the Kindle edition (reviews on Amazon criticised the print edition as being “cheaply printed”, and I’ll have to take them at their word). Were it available, I’d have preferred Addams and Evil, his 1947 anthology I mentioned in the review—it was a better anthology, I think—but the virtue of this one is that it includes cartoons from later in Addams’ career, which is a good thing.

But as is sometimes the case, this one book alone isn’t all there is to the story: Addams’ work was a beginning point for me.

I spent hours trawling through Addams and Evil when I was a kid (I’d already seen The Addams Family TV show by then), and I loved it. Whether this is where it began, or Addams merely touched a part of my personality and sense of humour, I went on to become a fan of comics that were somewhat outside the mainstream, such as “The Far Side” by Gary Larson, or the “Life in Hell” comics by Matt Groening, who is now better known for The Simpsons and Futurama. I bought Groening’s Work is Hell book when it was published in 1986.

So, Chas Addams prepared me to like cartoons that were offbeat, often darker, sometimes macabre, and not necessarily totally mainstream. In other words, all the things that, say, Mary Worth wasn’t.

However, throughout, I’ve preferred cartoons published in newspapers and magazines—both mainstream and, especially, alternative—mainly because of ease of access. When I was younger, I thought that all comic books were about super heroes, which didn’t interest me very much. If I’d only known.

My sense of humour still favours the offbeat, often darker, and sometimes macabre themes I’ve enjoyed ever since I first encountered Chas Addams work when I was a child. This book, while far from perfect, was a wonderful reminder of what I loved so much when I was a kid, and what I still love.

What I read: Happily Ever After: A Collection of Cartoons to Chill the Heart of Your Loved One by Chas Addams, Kindle Edition, 176 pages (print edition), Published by Simon & Schuster, June 16, 2008.

Footnote: I bought the book in January, sort of a birthday present to myself, and I posted the review to Goodreads in February—just about the time we were getting ready to move, which explains everything: I didn’t have time to blog about it then, nor since then, either, apparently. Also, this post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.

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