Sunday, October 7, 2007

the un-comic reality of Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz is someone I've admired for a very long time.

I guess I should qualify that and say it is his work - the acclaimed Peanuts - that I've admired for a very long time. Of all the comic strips I've followed over the years, this one is my favorite; judging by his continued popularity evidenced by the sale of these books, I'm not alone. Peanuts is an almost perfect window into life, really.

Just look at the cast of characters. A downtrodden, bald-headed kid who wants to succeed but believes that may be impossible. A girl who fancies herself as someone who could help others by offering "pshychiatric help" for only five cents, but who often presents as nothing more than a "fuss-budget." An unobtainable beauty of a red-headed girl. A wannabe concert pianist. A dog with an imagination kicked into hyperdrive on a Sopwith Camel.

Charles Schulz was a man who was caring and compassionate, filling the lives of his family members with so much happiness that no warm blankets were necessary. At least, that's how I had always pictured him. So it is very disheartening to learn that Schulz did not lead the idyllic kind of life some of us believed he led.

David Michaelis has written a biography of Schulz and his famous world - Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. Among other details, Michaelis writes about Schulz's homelife, his affair with the woman who became his second wife, and his cold detachment from his own children.

Schulz seems to now join the ranks of artists - and that's exactly what he was - who have led lives others would find less than admirable. Does this diminish his work in any way? Instead of a salty delight, has Peanuts become a bitter pill to swallow?

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