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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biographyby David Michaelis
Synopses & Reviews
Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in American culture. Now, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of Schulz: at once a creation story, a portrait of a hidden American genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the national imagination. The son of a barber, Schulz was born in Minnesota to modest, working class roots. In 1943, just three days after his mother's tragic death from cancer, Schulz, a private in the army, shipped out for boot camp and the war in Europe. The sense of shock and separation never left him. And these early experiences would shape his entire life.
With Peanuts, Schulz embedded adult ideas in a world of small children to remind the reader that character flaws and childhood wounds are with us always. It was the central truth of his own life, that as the adults we've become and as the children we always will be, we can free ourselves, if only we can see the humour in the predicaments of funny-looking kids. Schulz's Peanuts profoundly influenced the country in the second half of the 20th century. But the strip was anchored in the collective experience and hardships of Schulz's generation — the generation that survived the Great Depression and liberated Europe and the Pacific and came home to build the post-war world.
"For all the joy Charlie Brown and the gang gave readers over half a century, their creator, Charles Schulz, was a profoundly unhappy man. It's widely known that he hated the name Peanuts, which was foisted on the strip by his syndicate. But Michaelis (N.C. Wyeth: A Biography), given access to family, friends and personal papers, reveals the full extent of Schulz's depression, tracing its origins in his Minnesota childhood, with parents reluctant to encourage his artistic dreams and yearbook editors who scrapped his illustrations without explanation. Nearly 250 Peanuts strips are woven into the biography, demonstrating just how much of his life story Schulz poured into the cartoon. In one sequence, Snoopy's crush on a girl dog is revealed as a barely disguised retelling of the artist's extramarital affair. Michaelis is especially strong in recounting Schulz's artistic development, teasing out the influences on his unique characterization of children. And Michaelis makes plain the full impact of Peanuts' first decades and how much it puzzled and unnerved other cartoonists. This is a fascinating account of an artist who devoted his life to his work in the painful belief that it was all he had. 16 pages of b&w photos; 240 b&w comic strips throughout." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"Michaelis...has produced a stunningly insightful and compulsively readable account." Denver Post
"[E]arnest and penetrating....Mr. Michaelis has done an extraordinary amount of digging and has written a perceptive and compelling account of Schulz's life. This book finally introduces Charles Schulz to us all." Bill Watterson, The Wall Street Journal
"It is Mr. Michaelis's achievement...that he leaves us with both a shrewd appreciation of Schulz's minimalist art and a sympathetic understanding of Schulz the man....[He] has done a fluent job of weaving the many facts and anecdotes he's collected into an engaging narrative..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[T]his fine, exhaustive text is well-organized and knowledgeable....Michaelis offers considerable insight into the semiotics of comics and the psyche of a master of the craft. All that's needed about a prodigy of American cultural history." Kirkus Reviews
"Read David Michaelis' startling biography...and you'll never look at Good Ol' Charlie Brown in the same way....To great effect, Michaelis mixes his text with hundreds of reprinted strips, each of which drives home his points better than a full page of words could." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Michaelis...tells this story brightly and engagingly, if not always succinctly and without repetition." Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review
"Anyone who grew up with Peanuts — and our numbers are legion — will find much satisfaction in this wonderful, honest portrait of one of America's great and fascinatingly complex artists." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Michaelis has done a masterly job of assembling the often puzzling and even contradictory pieces of Schulz's life into a convincing whole....
"Thanks to reprints in newspapers and reruns on TV, Peanuts remains as popular as ever; its many fans will be enthralled by the unexpected insight Michaelis provides into Schulz's singular accomplishment." Booklist
Book News Annotation:
Michaelis, a noted biographer and journalist, offers this comprehensive and detailed account of Charles M. Schulz, creator of the beloved Peanuts comic strip, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood of 20th century American artists. The author emphasizes how the strip evolved through Schulz's experiences growing up in the Great Depression and during World War II. The themes of struggle, survival and hardship permeate the strip in a subtle way, and this biography, which is aimed at a general audience, underlines the collective experiences of the country during challenging times. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in American culture. Now acclaimed biographer Michaelis delivers the first full-length biography of a hidden American genius. 130 b&w comic strips throughout. Two 16-page photo inserts.
Charles M. Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the least understood figures in American culture. Now acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of the brilliant, unseen man behind Peanuts: at once a creation story, a portrait of a native genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the national imagination.
It is the most American of stories: How a barber's son grew up from modest beginnings to realize his dream of creating a newspaper comic strip. How he daringly chose themes never before attempted in mainstream cartoons—loneliness, isolation, melancholy, the unending search for love—always lightening the darker side with laughter and mingling the old-fashioned sweetness of childhood with a very adult and modern awareness of the bitterness of life. And how, using a lighthearted, loving touch, a crow-quill pen dipped in ink, and a cast of memorable characters, he portrayed the struggles that come with being awkward, imperfect, human.
With Peanuts, Schulz profoundly influenced America in the second half of the twentieth century. But the humorous strip was anchored in the collective experience and hardships of the artist's generation—the generation that survived the Great Depression, liberated Europe and the Pacific, and came home to build the prosperous postwar world. Michaelis masterfully weaves Schulz's story with the cartoons that are so familiar to us, revealing how so much more of his life was part of the strip than we ever knew.
Based on years of research, including exclusive interviews with the cartoonist's family, friends, and colleagues, unprecedented access to his studio and business archives, and new caches of personal letters and drawings, Schulz and Peanuts is the definitive epic biography of an American icon and the unforgettable characters he created.
About the Author
David Michaelis is the author of N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, among other books. His writing has appeared in The New York Observer, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, The New Republic, and The American Scholar. He lives in New York City.
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