When I was four of five years old, I simply adored Sunday mornings with my dad. We’d sit on the floor with the Chicago Tribune scattered all over. The Smurfs would be on TV and, as my dad diligently read through the Business and Arts and Entertainment section, I spent hours reading the comics.
Well, not necessarily reading…more like looking at the pictures. I just loved the idea of reading the paper. It seemed so ‘grown up’. Since those precious days, my favorite comic was always the Peanuts strip. Looking back on it now, it was probably because the colors were brighter and there was a dog in it…but now, as I sit on the floor on Sundays reading the comics section, I have a new appreciation for the Peanuts strip. It’s smart…poignant…and often quite sad. Among all the other strips in the comic section, Peanuts speaks to kids and adults…teaching lessons and providing insight into the stress and uncertainty of growing up.
For all the joy that Charlie Brown and his group of friends brought to thousands of readers, their creator—Charles Schulz—was a profoundly unhappy man. In the tell-all biography, Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis, the history of the Peanuts strip unfolds. Michaelis is given acess to Schulz’s family members, personal records and letters, and early boards of Schulz’s work in an effort to shed light on the man who’s drawings and passion brought comfort to so many readers.
Fans of the Peanuts strip might not be surprised that Schulz battled depression and other mental illnesses, all of which are transparent in his body of work. Everything from Charlie Brown’s fear of girls to Schroeder’s commitment issues and love of classical music are pieces of Schulz himself. He put so much of himself into his work that, eventually, he came to the realization that it was all he had…he had nothing left to give. He split himself up between dozens of personalities and when all was said and done, when all the money was counted, all the fame set aside, all that was left was a man who found refuge, solstice, and a bit of good luck in doodling cartoons.
Scattered throughout this 700-page biography are nearly 250 Peanuts cartoons, demonstrating just how much of his life story Schulz poured into his work. Whatever failings Schulz may have thought he had as a person, it’s obvious to all Peanuts fans that his strip had nothing but real heart.
NEXT WEEK: “A story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones…and find that our old love has only deepened.”
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.