Monthly Archives: October 2011

Schulz and Peanuts Book Review

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.

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Today in History…Buster Keaton was Born

If he were alive to celebrate his birthday today, Buster Keaton would be 116 years old.  “The Great Stone Face”, as he was known in his time, was a tall, thin, deadpan actor who stole the silver screen with his spot on wit and charm.  Before his death at age 70, Keaton starred in and/or contributed to more than 60 films.  Roger Ebert even said that Keaton was, and perhaps still is, one of the greatest actor-directors in the history of movies.  Films such as The General, Sherlock Jr., and Our Hospitality are ranked as some of the greatest movies of all time…all thanks to a little man in a little hat.

Equally as famous as Keaton were his hats…more specifically, his pork pie hats.  Keaton and his wife Eleanore were said to have made thousands of hats during Keaton’s acting career.  Many were destroyed during filming…which is obvious if you’re a fan of Keaton’s pictures…and others were given away as gifts.

If you’re unfamiliar with Keaton’s work, there’s tons of clips available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.  I’ve attached the famous hat scene from Steamboat Bill, Jr. here.

Fans of Johnny Depp might also remember a particular touching scene in Benny and Joon, one of Depp’s earlier and more touching films (personally, one of my favorites).  In this hat scene, Depp pays tribute to Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, dancing with a “magic hat” with minimal dialogue and clever “stunts”.  Watch Depp dance “In the Park” here.

In his short lifetime, Buster Keaton made his mark on the stages of vaudeville, Broadway, and Hollywood.  Though his body of work lacks a physical voice, it speaks volumes to the cleverness and sincerity of the silent picture era.  Happy Birthday, Buster Keaton!

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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