I was very excited to read this book when I got it for Christmas in 2007... I'm a long time Snoopy fan and have a nice collection of books and figurines. I have a great amount of respect for the man behind this American classic. This biography, however, is seriously disappointing. It portrays Charles "Sparky" Schulz as a cold, bitter, depressed, and womanizing man. I have no doubt that he had unpleasant events in his life that led him to create such wonderfully rich characters and write such poignant storylines in his comics. I also have no doubt that he was not "perfect." And yes, he made huge amounts of money from his creation. But, this book casts such a black light over his personality, his career, and his personal life that I find VERY hard to reconcile. It is very worthy to note that Charles Schulz' children and wife have been very vocal in their disappointment as well. They have publicly pointed out the inaccuracies and blatant negativity of the so-called biography. Charles Schulz' eldest son, Monte, has said the family feels betrayed by Michaelis feeling he used them and the open access they provided to perform psychoanalysis on Sparky Schultz that is not reality; it is work of fiction. I DO NOT recommend this book; there is another biography of Charles M. Schulz, written when he was still living, that contains a true (not psychoanalytical) view of his life and the creation of Peanuts.
I've loved "Peanuts" since I can remember. I really liked "Peanuts" - the actual comic strip that appeared daily - not the Hallmark cards and movies and countless tv specials (save the original Christmas one). It drives me absolutely bonkers when people talk about what gentle humor it was, and how it was part of a nicer time that is gone today, and talk about it like it was a bunch of precious princess pony fairies.
(Admittedly, it drives me absolutely bonkers whenever anybody talks about "Peanuts" like they understand it better than I do.)
Schulz *started* all the subversive "modern" comedy. Without "Peanuts," there would be no "Simpsons" or "South Park" or "Family Guy." There is nothing gentle about a six-year old with an ulcer, or who has to visit a psychiatrist, or a girl who claims authority to kick her brother out of the house. There is something quietly surreal, and missable by people who grew up with all this stuff already established, about a girl running a psychiatric booth like a lemonade stand, and a little kid playing Beethoven on a toy piano with painted-on keys, and a dog who has extended surreal hallucinations about being a fighter pilot. Even when Snoopy first appeared balanced on the roof of his doghouse in an impossible way, it blew people away (because Schulz didn't call attention to it or explain it, he just did it).
Snoopy got gassed in a Viet Nam war protest, people! This was not a quaint, cutesy, staid thing!
Also, I used to draw a (bad, but still thematically related) web comic wherein the two main characters were essentially an adult, married, Charlie Brown and Lucy.
So if you're like me, you're going to love this book, of course. This book, for one, convincingly shows that Lucy was based on, and fueled by, Schulz' first wife (not his eldest daughter, as Schulz hinted), and that Charlie Brown (as well as Schroeder and components of Snoopy) were Schulz himself.
It's a fascinating, well-researched, and not overly-flattering, but neither sensationalist, portrait of the only comic strip artist anyone will remember in 500 years.
Great book! David Michaelis did an amazing job at revealing the depths of Charles Schulz in an interesting, readable book.