Monday, July 14, 2008

Schulz and Peanuts: A Review

I just finished reading Schulz and Peanuts, and have to put it right up there with Moby Dick... as one of the most unnecessarily longest and most drawn out books I've ever read. I read every word of it, but finishing it felt like an act of mercy, and I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of paying for it. The book basically tells us every word that Schulz had ever had with every person he ever met, and does so in such a way that makes Charles Schulz and anyone who ever met him look like a jackass. I'm not sure if this is what the Author intended, but it comes across that way, and since this is an unauthorized biography, it makes the Author look bad in comparison.

I've been a fan of Peanuts since I was a kid, and have paid tribute to Charles Schulz on several occassions in my work. (two of those toons are included here.) I honestly have not followed his personal life all these years, and have only read the occasional article. His passing saddened me, and in a way I'm sorry I read this book. Biographies suffer from the fact that they rely on testimonials, and testimonials must be, by definitiion, questioned for their accuracy. Some people may say harsh things out of jealousy, others may have faulty memories, and still others may just want to say something memorable to make sure their names get in the book. I love to read biographies, but they do suffer when you realise that very little of what you are reading can be backed up with fact. Saying that "somebody" said "something" clears you legally, but are you really portraying people faithfully? Can you?

Now I never met Charles Schulz, but interviews with Lynn Johnston and other Cartoonists seem to contradict this book. They make him out to be a thoughtful caring guy, where this book forgets to mention that. All of it may be true, of course, but it really makes an uncomfortable read.

Cartoonists looking for advice or information about the business can just forget it. All of this happened so long ago that it does not apply today. Charles Schulz was extremely talented, but also extremely lucky to be syndicated at a time when newspapers ruled supreme, and television was in its infancy. He was also lucky to get involved in television early, and Peanuts have made Billions over the years.

One good thing about the book, is the look back in history. I found it interesting to read about life in the midwest in the early 1900's, and also found it interesting to see what it's like to live life without any money problems. Very unique in that aspect.

The book definitely had some moments, and, unlike Moby Dick, I actually read it all the way through. I did enjoy some of it, but in a smutty way... kind of like reading the tabloids and enjoying the soap opera that famous people make of their lives. In fact, some of it could have been made into a soap opera!

Overall, though, I came away feeling dirty. When people say "let my work speak for me", they are speaking words of wisdom. Learning THIS much detail from anyone's life can be uncomfortable, and not knowing how much is true just muddies the waters further. Do yourself a favor and go buy one of the Peanuts retrospective hardcover collections, instead. You'll truly enjoy that, and be able to reread it again and again. And you'll be able to admire Schulz for his work, like it should be.

Cheers, JOHN :0)


Meera said...

Well said :0)

Brian Hughes said...

"...kind of like reading the tabloids and enjoying the soap opera that famous people make of their lives."

Can't say as I've read the book John, but I find it hard to believe that old Sparky was in any way comparable to Amy Winehouse.

John said...

Meera, Thanks, and Cheers,

Brian, I'm not sure anyone is comparable to Amy Winehouse, although I find it interesting that she lives up to her last name so well.

I hate giving bad reviews, but this book really was an uncomfortable read at times. I also remember reading Hank Ketchum's biography, and not quite enjoying that one either.

Maybe I should avoid biographies altogether, and go back to reading Wodehouse. His characters aren't Saints, but then again they're not meant to be. :0)