Chris Turner,
Planet Simpson
(Da Capo, 2005)

It's hard to believe The Simpsons is actually celebrating a 20th anniversary this year (of its debut on The Tracey Ullman Show). There are actually adults out there for whom the Simpsons family has always been around. Weird.

In Planet Simpson, Chris Turner has put together an exhaustive history of the show from its inception. Subtitled "How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation," the book examines -- in depth -- the influence that The Simpsons has had on popular culture, from Homer's "D'oh!" being added to the dictionary to the show's popularity around the world.

Each of the primary characters, with the exception of Maggie, gets a chapter of his or her own, in which their place in the show is examined. Turner not only takes a close-up look at the characters, but also links together what was happening in the world at any given point with what was happening on the show.

When I said "exhaustive" above, I wasn't kidding -- at 438 pages (not counting the index), this is a true tome with a scholarly bent. But before the word "scholarly" turns you off, let me add that the language is anything but. By turns entertaining and informative, Planet Simpson is a perfect introduction to the show for the neophyte (like me) and a wonderful companion for the fan who has seen every episode 20 times.

by Laurie Thayer
24 March 2007

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