Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life

Linda H. Davis, Author . Random $29.95 (382p) ISBN 978-0-679-46325-2

In this buoyantly written first biography of Charles Addams, Davis dispels the myths surrounding the cartoonist and challenges facile assumptions that Addams was the archetype of his own creepy creations. Though fascinated by "the aberrations of life," he loved Aston Martins and Bugattis, cigars, drinking and beautiful women (he often dated famous ones, including Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Jackie Kennedy). Addams—whose living room centerpiece was a draining device for corpses called a "drying out table"—gleefully perpetuated the myths surrounding him. He liked to imagine "that if he hadn't been a cartoonist, he might have been a criminal." However, a more sustained exploration of Cecil Beaton's comment that Addams's work "introduced a gothic element into daily life" would have added a deeper dimension to this portrait. Overall, it's more affectionate than critical, and never fully explains why Addams's work became so beloved or significant. Yet the book, which includes previously unpublished artwork, photographs and personal drawings, is sure to interest Addams fans and New Yorker history buffs. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 06/26/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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