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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography Hardcover – October 16, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, October 2007: There's no book this year that made people's eyes light up when I told them about it more than Schulz and Peanuts, David Michaelis's new biography of cartoonist Charles Schulz. (And when they saw the obvious-but-brilliant Chip Kidd-designed cover, their eyes got even brighter.) Everyone, it seems, feels a personal connection to Peanuts (a name, by the way, that Schulz always hated), but few have a sense of the artist whose small troupe of big-headed characters still lives at the center of our imagination. If some mystery about the man still remains after reading Michaelis's sharp, engaging, and level-headed biography that's no fault of the biographer--in fact, it's to his credit. Michaelis parses Schulz's particular combination of Midwestern reserve and steely determination and the strip's still-surprising balance of exuberance and misery, and he reminds us what a colossal cultural force it became, especially in the 1960s. But even as he ingeniously finds sources for Schulz's four-panel vignettes in the events of his biography, he recognizes that the true, sometimes inexplicable drama of his life took place when he sat down every day for 50 years to trace Linus's wobbly strands of hair, fill in Snoopy's black nose, and, time and again, letter the words "Good grief." --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Oct. 16)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066213932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066213934
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Lee on November 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's always frustrating when something that you know you're supposed to like disappoints you. I'm a lifelong Peanuts fan, charter member of the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and an avid reader of biographies, so this book seems like it should be tailor-made for me. I'd been eagerly waiting for it ever since it was first announced in 2000, although the various objections of the Schulz family in the weeks before the release tempered that a little bit. So, I have to say: this is a worthy but deeply flawed biography.
The title is "Schulz and Peanuts", but a more accurate title might be "Some Aspects of Schulz and How They Relate to Some Aspects of Peanuts". For an exhaustively researched 600-page book about a man who lived to be 77, Michaelis has written a curiously narrow book. Obviously, there's an incredible amount to cover in Schulz's life (Michaelis' rough draft was almost 1200 pages long and he briefly thought about dividing the book into two volumes), but Michaelis just keeps hitting all the same notes over and over: Schulz was unhappy, Schulz had a chip on his shoulder, Schulz never recovered from his mother's tragic death, Schulz used shyness as an excuse to avoid taking risks, Schulz had dysfunctional relationships with women, and on and on. And for a book about a humorist, there's very little humor in here, although some of the situations Michaelis describes play out like Peanuts strips involving adults. As for the complaints of Schulz's family, I'm obviously not in a position to say what's accurate in the book and what isn't. But I certainly can see where, as Schulz's son Monte has claimed, Michaelis might have ignored facts that went against his thesis. This isn't a Kitty Kelley/Albert Goldman hatchet job bio, but I think Michaelis' approach is a bit misguided.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Growing up in a relentlessly secular home in the '60s, "Peanuts" was my true north, providing and deconstructing my own ongoing puzzlement about how people felt and thought. I read the comic in the daily papers, hoarded my pennies to buy the collected volumes, and even then, thought that Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz must have shared many of his characters' quirks, dilemmas, joys, and despondencies.

After reading this absorbing biography by David Michaelis, I now know that as a child I'd chosen the right person to provide a daily guide to childhood and the mysteries of adulthood. Michaelis provides a comprehesive back story, having spoken to amd corresponded with hundreds of Schulz's relatives, friends, neighbors, buddies from his childhood in Minnesota and during his stint as a "foot soldier" in World War II. After syndication made Sparky world-famous, writers, artists, and performers sought to meet Schulz, but his innate shyness made it difficult to reach out to other people. Michaelis hesitates to play snap psychologist with his subject, but does conclude that a lifelong unhappiness--despite his cataclysmic success--and intermittent agoraphobia encouraged Schulz to stay where he felt most comfortable: at his drawing board in his home studio.

Some of Schulz's intimates have expressed disappointment at the finished product, but any public exposure of mostly-private persons is difficult, no doubt about it.
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Format: Hardcover
Michaelis had the opportunity of a lifetime. The family, friends and business interests related to Sparky Schulz gave Michaelis unfettered access to their archives as well as to themselves, everything a writer could possibly want. There was one major exception; Michaelis never met the man and he formed many opinions from the ashes of a former marriage, a recipe for disaster.

My wife, Donna, and I knew Sparky for many years. We began the relationship from a business perspective and it evolved into a personal friendship. Over time, we met most of his family and several of his close friends. Sparky exhibited the traits of a tremendous creative talent but often wondered why people liked this strip. Yet, no one worked harder or did a better job of delivering a final product that touched people and made them reflect, ponder or laugh. Underneath it all was a warm and generous heart. He gave so much to the world beyond a comic strip and his philosophy. By example, he sponsored an annual golf tournament in Santa Rosa from which all proceeds went to the Santa Rosa Hospice. After the tournament each year, he opened up the Redwood Ice Arena as a fund raiser, giving much of himself and his signed work, signing autographs, doing whatever he needed to do to ensure success. He and Jeannie were prime movers and donors for the Santa Rosa chapter of Canine Companions for Independence (acquiring and training assistance dogs then matching them with their new masters). The CCI campus would not exist without his contributions. An incredible number of people have been touched by his generosity over the years never knowing Sparky was the benefactor. There isn't enough room here to begin to list his benevolent deeds.

One of the things we loved about him was his humorous side.
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