Mad Magazine, and in later years collections of this wonderfully inventive, irresistibly irreverent and intermittently ingenious American "comic book," would qualify as one of my most prized guilty pleasures. (But why "guilty"? No one who admires Mad magazine really feels the need to apologize or defend himself.) When I first began reading this inspired comic book, I was quite a young child, entirely lacking in awareness of or interest in who might have been responsible for its freshness and originality amid so much on comic-book racks that was derivative and cliché-ridden. Now I know that Harvey Kurtzman edited Mad magazine and William Gaines published it; that Mad belonged to a controversial family of comic books, EC Comics, one day to be investigated by a Senate committee (on what grounds, one can only speculate); that the fatuously grinning Alfred E. Neuman with his perennial query ("What, me worry?") prefigured the improbable presidential cartoon character George W. Bush many years later.
Oates' most recent book is The Gravedigger's Daughter. Anyone who can find the merest trace of Mad in this novel will receive a gift from the author.
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