Saturday, December 28, 2019

Book Review: 'Addams' Apple: The New York Cartoons of Charles Addams' by Sarah M. Henry and Luc Sante (Illustrated by Charles Addams)

Charles Addams is the rare cartoonist whose renown has survived him. This is largely due to the Addams Family franchise - tv, film and Broadway musical at very least. Addams’ Apple is a new collection of cartoons focusing  largely on New York City and its endless possibilities for his delightfully off-kilter juxtapositions.

Addams could take any normal scene in an office, a store, on the street or at home, and add just one element that would change it completely. A window washer outside an office tower window, standing in a gigantic gorilla palm. A man happily leaving a repair shop with a windup key in the back of his head. And of course, the Addams family, with Uncle Fester releasing a huge bird of prey while his neighbor releases his homing pigeons.

The collection spans about 50 years, and even the fashions don’t change much, as Addams has a man in 18th century dress climbing into a hansom cab and asking to be taken to Delmonico’s – and make it fast, while Manhattan traffic doesn’t even blink.

What stood out to me were the environmental cartoons, way before their time – the sun melting the New York skyline, archaeologists discovering the spire of the Chrysler Building, high tide all but submerging the office buildings, and a toy tanker leaking oil into the Central Park sailboat pond.

But I think my favorite of this set is the man on a This is Your Life kind of tv show, who is about to be reunited with the wife he left 15 years ago – and she is holding a gun.

A short sweet book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.