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Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  122 ratings  ·  29 reviews
“They’re creepy and they’re kooky,” is how the catchy theme song of The Addams Family described everyone’s favorite nonconformists–Morticia, Gomez, Lurch, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Wednesday, and Pugsley. But for all the novelty of the sitcom based on Charles Addams’s groundbreaking New Yorker cartoons, Hollywood’s Addams family paled beside the cartoonist’s. “Not half as e ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Random House (first published 2006)
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Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
This book is an example of Books That Get Set Aside For A While Because I Become Annoyed With a Person Within. Currently Addams has divorced wife two, who seems absolutely horrible. But because she continues to harass him in various ways he signs over certain rights to his work to her. She is awful, he capitulates to her whims and then is still bullied about by her - ugh. I just had to put the book aside for a bit because I like the guy, but signing away what could make him money (which he needs ...more
Dave Holcomb
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's rare to read a biography of a major figure in twentieth-century popular culture and come away with a warm feeling, but this book did that for me.

Addams, the New Yorker magazine cartoonist known for his off-beat view of life -- and for a group of recurring characters who ultimately became the Addams Family -- seems to have been adored by just about everyone who ever crossed his path. This book is largely a long series of anecdotes illustrating Addams' life and career, and his relationships
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of cartooning and American humor
Recommended to Brent by: Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System
Shelves: biography, humor, history, art
This is so well-researched and written: Addams, um, got around.
His biographer seemingly interviews EVERYONE, so you do get personal details.
Highly recommended.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A first rate look into the life of Charles Addams (1913-1988)

This book does a superb job of informing the reader of the unique, varied life of Addams, his formative years, his career, and legacy!
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating man. We should all live our lives as true to ourselves as he did.
Scott Williams
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The biographer has clearly done a great deal of research, but I wish that she had shared more primary texts with readers. She often quotes very briefly from letters, memos, and interviews. I would have liked to have read some of them more completely. Of course she provides copious notes but it’s not the same thing.

The biographer seems to be overly preoccupied with Addams as a lover. He certainly seems to have had relationships with a great many women. Perhaps it was one of the things
Jeffrey Anderson
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A delightful biography of one of my favorite artists of all time. Charles Addams certainly led an extraordinary life. He was quite the ladies man in mid-twentieth century New York. He was married three times and his second wife looms over the last two-thirds of his life like the dragon lady she is portrayed here. This biography is not a candy-coated valentine to Addams, rather it is a rich and loving portrait of the man warts and all. Such a wonderful talent and so eccentric in real life as well ...more
Erika Jost
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ypt
Quite entertaining and well-written. Felt a little harsh on Barbara Colyton, the second wife, whom the man himself seemed to hold in high regard. Loved the investigation of specific inspiration for some of the cartoons.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
a lot of fairly boring stuff .... not enough illustrations, though. I guess I'll have to look for his collected works.
Molly Black
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a surprise brought back by my caregiver from the library. And it was a very happy surprise. I read this very friendly and open biography more quickly than expected due to the author having a breezy and easy to read style.

The personal life is mildly shocking and though there's very little use of cursing, the many affairs and relationships and violence toward him during his second marriage are unexpected.

The best thing for me was the ins and outs of his cartooning
Jeff Lewonczyk
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a threefold delight: as the interesting life of a decent if flawed guy; as the portrait of a unique and easily romanticized era of American culture; and as the depiction of a great artist's rise and progression. It's all very breezy and light, even through some of the rough patches in Addams' life, thanks to Davis' clear admiration and empathy for her subject. If you're any kind of fan of cartoons, the New Yorker, or 20th-century pop-culture in general, do yourself a favor and pick it u ...more
Jul 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
I can't even bring myself to finish this one. I mean Chas Addams is someone I've grown up with (well, his books and cartoons were always present in my life) and he seems like he could have been an interesting bloke. So, how is it this biography could have been produced. I'm tired of the name dropping and reading what appears to be a high school paper on him -- give me some meat, some human interest ... no wait, gimme another book to read!
Lee Ann
Sep 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, abandoned
Unfortunately, I'm about 50 pages in and still bored, so I'm abandoning this. A little disappointing, because I was looking forward to learning about the creator of The Addams Family. But Davis's writing style is a little flat. And I don't know enough about most of the big-name cartoonists she name-drops to understand a lot of the references she or Charles Addams make to them.
Em Tee
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
I only got about 1/3 of the way through this book. It is reasonably well written, but it often seems as though it is about New Yorker cartoonists in general during the era Addams was at his height. Maybe that changes as you read on, but I felt like I was reading an expanded C.V. more than anything, which is not really something I look for in a biography...
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read all of his cartoon books when I was under twelve! And I read his cartoons in "The New Yorker". Most people only know "The Addams Family" TV show and don't know his cartoons were long before and long after the show.
Anna Alexander
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Great insight and exhaustively researched book of the life of Charles Addams. His love of dangerous women was his weakness and depressed me a little because I so wanted these women to get hit by trucks. A quick read and worth checking out.
Craig Leimkuehler
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a quick, easy, fun read about the surprising life of cartoonist Charles Addams. I was surprised to learn that he was quite the ladies' man in his heyday dating a variety of well known women. Except for the second marriage he seemed of have had an ideal life.
Oct 18, 2012 rated it liked it
He was an interesting man.
Joe Faust
An excellent biography – after reading this, I felt like I have met the master cartoonist. Also has of the best opening chapters of a biography that I have ever read.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very well written book. I wrote a long review but Goodreads ate it. So I'll just say I really enjoyed this bio.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cartoonists
Chas Addams drew a lot of cartoons and slept with a lot of women.
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: from-library
i will now try to read all the addams family cartoons.
Wolf Farside
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Yes
Generally, a good read. Good detail, clearly written by someone who had access to Addams' papers, yet doesn't overwhelm the reader with facts or details. A good balance.
Oct 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Although it left me with a good idea of Addams life, I quickly tired of the name dropping. There were times I would have to backtrack to determine just who the author was refering too.
May 20, 2008 rated it liked it
He seemed like quite a character, universally loved, with a taste for dangerous women. Thus far, I am enjoying this biography, but am not really getting into it like I hoped I would.
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Great insights about his career. Depressing insights about his ex-wives. Exhaustive insights about all the dating.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I was captivated by this without being able to pinpoint why. This would be a good choice for people who just generally like biographies, no matter the subject.
Saga Charade
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Chas Addams is related to the presidents Adams.. on his mother's side!
Heather Paxton
rated it really liked it
Dec 07, 2009
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“...On their first day in the new house, Addams had gotten up in the dark. From the surrounding swamp came bloodcurdling screams - the sound of possums mating, Tee later speculated, though it was perhaps a fisher, the dark-colored marten who stalked the wetlands, rooting rabbits from their nests. Addams returned to bed. "Someone is murdering babies in the swamp," he said. "Oh darling," came the sleepy reply from the pillows, "I forgot to tell you about the neighbors."

"All my life I wanted to live in one of those Addams Family houses, but I've never achieved that," Addams had recently told a reporter. "I do my best to add little touches," he said. ...Still, he conceded, "it's hard to convert a ranch-type house into a Victorian monster." ”
“The Addams dwelling at 25 West Fifty-fourth Street was directly behind the Museum of Modern Art, at the top of the building. It was reached by an ancient elevator, which rumbled up to the twelfth floor. From there, one climbed through a red-painted stairwell where a real mounted crossbow hovered. The Addams door was marked by a "big black number 13," and a knocker in the shape of a vampire.

...Inside, one entered a little kingdom that fulfilled every fantasy one might have entertained about its inhabitant. On a pedestal in the corner of the bookcase stood a rare "Maximilian" suit of armor, which Addams had bought at a good price ("a bargain at $700")... It was joined by a half-suit, a North Italian Morion of "Spanish" form, circa 1570-80, and a collection of warrior helmets, perched on long stalks like decapitated heads... There were enough arms and armaments to defend the Addams fortress against the most persistent invader: wheel-lock guns; an Italian prod; two maces; three swords. Above a sofa bed, a spectacular array of medieval crossbows rose like birds in flight. "Don't worry, they've only fallen down once," Addams once told an overnight guest. ...

Everywhere one looked in the apartment, something caught the eye. A rare papier-mache and polychrome anatomical study figure, nineteenth century, with removable organs and body parts captioned in French, protected by a glass bell. ("It's not exactly another human heart beating in the house, but it's close enough." said Addams.) A set of engraved aquatint plates from an antique book on armor. A lamp in the shape of a miniature suit of armor, topped by a black shade. There were various snakes; biopsy scissors ("It reaches inside, and nips a little piece of flesh," explained Addams); and a shiny human thighbone - a Christmas present from one wife. There was a sewing basket fashioned from an armadillo, a gift from another.

In front of the couch stood a most unusual coffee table - "a drying out table," the man at the wonderfully named antiques shop, the Gettysburg Sutler, had called it. ("What was dried on it?" a reporter had asked. "Bodies," said Addams.)...”
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