Saturday, October 20, 2007

Good Grief!

I received my copy of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography from Amazon today. I stopped at page 31 feeling utterly despondent. Author David Michaelis paints such a morose and relentlessly depressing portrayal of Schulz and his family (at least his mother and her relatives), that it's hard to slog through.

One gets the feeling the author is chronicling the early life of a serial killer rather than one of America’s most beloved cartoonists.

I now understand the Schulz family’s dismay. It's rather obvious that Michaelis has a central thesis that he's painstakingly constructing: the artist as melancholy misfit, unable to achieve or appreciate real happiness, material to the contrary be damned.

Several cartoonists have recently posted on the Internet their personal stories about Schulz; all show a gracious, supportive and generous man. I've no doubt that Charles Schulz had his demons; nearly every great artist does. But the demons weren’t the sum of the man.

I never met Schulz, but I've read enough about him, and talked with people who did know him, to feel that this book -- at least thus far -- is doing him a great disservice.

On a personal, and amusing, note: When discussing Garfield and Jim Davis later in the biography, Michaelis quotes from the Garfield 25th Anniversary book -- a book I co-wrote and co-edited.


Scott M. said...

Scott, I was seriously considering buying this book, hoping that it would at least be balanced. Reading about the 'dark side' of Schulz doesn't bother me at all, but if that's all the author is doing, just painting a relentlessly depressing picture of the man, no thanks.

Your comments about the book are enough to make me not want to read it.

Scott Cummings said...

Hmm, I don't know ... Throughout his life, Schulz got such consistently good press. I read Rhetta Johnston's biography of him and she clearly didn't dig any deeper than Schulz would allow; no mention in her book of an affair in his first marriage and a fairly superficial treatment of his melancholy side. Going overboard in the more unsavory parts of his character may balance out all the saintly characterizations. But I still haven't bought the book ...

MJ said...

Wow, I heard an interview with the author and thought it might actually be a good read. Glad to hear I shouldn't waste my time or money. By the way the mousepads look cool...