Schulz and Peanuts

Written By: David Michaelis

Published By: Harper Perenniel

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            All my life, my favorite comic strip characters have been Peanuts by Charles Schulz.  I collected and read every single Peanuts book I could get my hands on, watched every holiday special and even watched the Saturday cartoon series.  I loved all of the characters in the strip and the situations they get into, but my favorite character, and the favorite of many other Peanuts fans out there, is Snoopy.  A dog who can get himself in human situations, but still find time to behave like a dog, Snoopy is hysterical and I always get a kick out of his shenanigans. 

            Iíve read numerous accounts of the comic strip and its creator, but I have never actually read a biography of Charles Schulz until now.  I found this huge 500-plus page biography, Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis, at Barnes & Noble iconin the discount book section.  I got the book for an amazing price and couldnít wait to read it.  I had mixed feelings about the author of my favorite comic strip and wondered if this book could set things straight for me.

            As I began the tale of Charles Schulz, which actually begins somewhere in the middle and then backtracks, I found the early years to be quite telling.  Reading about how Sparky dealt with the loss of his mother and how he never got over it, in addition to his life at home as a child and his interactions with his parents and extended family, one could understand Schulzís melancholy nature as an adult. 

            Reading this book, I realized that I hadnít really known much about the early years of Charles Schulzís life or the early years of his career.  This book delves into every step of Sparkyís life Ė the known and unknown, the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the downright ugly about the man behind the beloved comic strip.  The author also goes a long way towards showing readers just how much of Schulzís life found its way inside the strip he created.

            The more I read this book, the more let down I felt.  It wasnít the authorís fault.  When you idolize a comic strip, you kind of find yourself idolizing its creator.  When that happens, itís hard to hear about the darker sides of that creator.  I had gotten the idea that Charles Schulz was not always a very nice man from the collection of interviews I read in Charles Schulz: Conversations.  Now, in Schulz and Peanuts, I realized just how tormented, depressed and self-involved he was.  Sure, everyone knows about the selfless side of Schulz, the charitable side, and I wonít refute all of the good he did over the years for many people, but there is the other side of Schulz that most donít know about that is hard to accept.

            While I enjoyed the way Michaelis used excerpts of the Peanuts strip to explain moments and moods in Schulzís life, there were times when the strips were used more than once in the book.  There were times when I found Michaelisí writing to be quite interesting and other times when I wished he would just get to the point.  Often times, he would write about a moment in Sparkyís life, only to backtrack or shoot forward and confuse the reader as to where in the timeline of Sparkyís life they were in.  Sometimes, the book would seem to speed along and other times it dragged horribly.  As interesting as Schulzís life may have been, towards the end of the book, I couldnít wait to be done with it.  And yet, at the very end, I couldnít help but shed a tear at the man Charles Schulz had become.

            While Schulz and Peanuts is an extremely informative biography, the book is quite a long read and drags in more than a few parts.  There are also some repetitive moments that, if cut, would have made the writing move more smoothly.  This is a book for the hardcore Schulz fan that can take the good with the bad about the artist and doesnít mind a little drag in the tale. 


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