Doonesbury – But the Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There

When we were in Oregon, we stopped at a place called Robert’s Books. It’s one of those used book stores from the heavens that get plopped down right at the corner of nowhere and Main Street and just reeks of the Fabulous. I came a way with a pair of books–Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master, and Gary Trudeau’s But the Pension Fund was Just Sitting There, which is a Doonesbury book (Doonesbury, for the younger set, was a remarkable political cartoon of the olden days … if it were new now it would be a webzine and be shared and passed around a gazillion times, but instead it has to settle for being just a sublime piece of history).

I’m essentially browsing both since I’ve gotten home, and have made it half-way through them. I’ll probably talk more about the Zelazny in a bit, but today I’m sitting here and looking at Trudeau’s work and I’m thinking how strangely literary it is. Literary in it’s use of language and character. Literary in it’s reliance upon the reader to carry certain parts of content rather than spell everything out. This is, of course, somewhat the norm for political commentary. Sometimes you have to be there to get it. The whole run of strips on the Shah of Iran, for example, would come off stale to today’s audience. But if you were there, you just smile.

The book is copywrite 1978. So, there you go.

I remember reading these things as individual strips in the daily papers, and they were great then. But I was in High School, so I suppose I missed a lot of the nuance back then. I also missed the ebb and flow of the art of the whole–I don’t think I saw the way the stories were constructed. But, constructed they were.

Reading them here in compiled editions so you can read every run as individual entities, you see how politics and social mores were interwoven, and how they offset each other so that the stories didn’t grow old. And how the characterization elements built from frame to frame and strip to strip. How once Trudeau had his characters set, their mere appearance could speak volumes. I suppose you can say that for all the really long-running cartoon strips, but Doonesbury had it’s own satire and sarcasm-laced sense of irony to it that I think would have made it beyond cool even in the hipster world of today. The work stands today, even if the environment that surrounds it has aged more than a bit.

The book was $2.50.

Besides the $5.00 I tipped the airport emergency lady for jump starting my care, that was some of the best money I spent throughout my trip (barring, of course, the workshop itself [grin]).

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