Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

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9780066213934: Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

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.

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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

About the Author:

David Michaelis is the author of two bestselling biographies, including N. C. Wyeth (available from Harper Perennial), which won the Ambassador Book Award for Biography and Autobiography, given by the English-Speaking Union of the United States. He lives in New York City.

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