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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography [Hardcover]

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Item Number 65591  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   655
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 6.5" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   2.35 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 16, 2007
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  0066213932  
EAN  9780066213934  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
A portrait of the late creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip evaluates how his career was shaped by his midwestern working-class origins, family losses, and wartime experiences, offering insight into how familiar storylines closely reflected Schulz's private life.

Publishers Description

Charles M. Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the least understood figures in American culture. Now acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of the brilliant, unseen man behind Peanuts: at once a creation story, a portrait of a native genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the national imagination.

It is the most American of stories: How a barber's son grew up from modest beginnings to realize his dream of creating a newspaper comic strip. How he daringly chose themes never before attempted in mainstream cartoons—loneliness, isolation, melancholy, the unending search for love—always lightening the darker side with laughter and mingling the old-fashioned sweetness of childhood with a very adult and modern awareness of the bitterness of life. And how, using a lighthearted, loving touch, a crow-quill pen dipped in ink, and a cast of memorable characters, he portrayed the struggles that come with being awkward, imperfect, human.

With Peanuts, Schulz profoundly influenced America in the second half of the twentieth century. But the humorous strip was anchored in the collective experience and hardships of the artist's generation—the generation that survived the Great Depression, liberated Europe and the Pacific, and came home to build the prosperous postwar world. Michaelis masterfully weaves Schulz's story with the cartoons that are so familiar to us, revealing how so much more of his life was part of the strip than we ever knew.

Based on years of research, including exclusive interviews with the cartoonist's family, friends, and colleagues, unprecedented access to his studio and business archives, and new caches of personal letters and drawings, Schulz and Peanuts is the definitive epic biography of an American icon and the unforgettable characters he created.

Buy Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780066213934 & 0066213932

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More About David Michaelis

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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.

David Michaelis currently resides in Washington, in the state of District Of Columbia.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Very good book - weak editing.  May 27, 2010
I'm only writing this because I was surprised how often the writer & editor missed grammarical mistakes in the text. The most jarring was the repetitive use of "None were..." when it should read "None was..." Saying or writing "None" is the same as using "No one". It's singular.

Otherwise, the book is enjoyable and a highly satisfactory biography.
Good start to learning about this man  May 10, 2010
I met Charles Schultz only one time.

He was helping to sponsor a tennis tournament in Santa Rosa around 1983. He was at the kick-off luncheon in Sausilito. After the luncheon I intoduced myself and asked him a favor. I had a good friend's mother that was a giant Snoopy fan. She only sends Snoopy on any greeting card on any occasion. Could I please have an autograph to send her? Mr. Schultz smiled and asked me for a piece of paper and pen. He sketched out a full page Snoopy with a salutation to my friend's mother and his signature. The picture is framed and in her living room today. I have always remembered that simple act of kindness he gave to a complete stranger on a very busy day.

I think the real friends of Charles Schultz wanted more of this type man to show in this book and I can understand why.
Competent But Not Great Biography  Apr 8, 2010
The story of an artist who has a lonely childhood, who is raised by a troubled mother and reticent father, who yearns to translate his anxieties and melancholy into his art, who succeeds because these anxieties and melancholy speak intimately and loudly to a core audience, and who is then ultimately so overwhelmed by his fame that he thinks he's forever left his lonely childhood only to be trapped forever in it is the story of Charles Schulz, the creater of the popular "Peanuts" comic strip, but it could have been the story of any one of a number of our famous movie stars, singers, or writers. The best thing about David Michaelis's "Schulz and Peanuts" is Schulz's own work, which in the telling of a thoughful but shy boy "who is surrounded by adults who don't really know what they're doing" has a touch of poignant genius to its wit. But otherwise the biography is lame and generic.

The author's main thesis is that the elusive Charles Schulz (who gave many media interviews, but also refused to say anything concrete about his comic strip, including the most obvious bits -- for example, was Charlie Brown Schulz's alter ego?) used his comic strips to paint a portrait of who he is. Through his comic strips Schulz is trying to communicate with his readers, and he hopes that someday somewhere a reader -- his ideal reader -- can add all the pieces to the ever expanding jigsaw puzzle, and make Schulz, so ever traumatized by his wholesome but lonely childhood and loving but needy mother, whole and complete. No such reader exists, and not even a man who spent seven years with Schulz's private letters and most intimate contacts could in fact piece the broken man together again.

Here is the genesis of a genius cartoonist. A history of mental depression on one end of the family, and a history of alcoholism on another end. A childhood as the smallest boy in class, constantly bullied. The pride of teachers before becoming the scorn of teachers (his high school teachers would be condescending of Schulz's ambitions to be a cartoonist than his failing grades). The melancholy loneliness of childhood suddenly transformed into the triumphant camaderie of the army. Thoughtful introspection transformed into a fervent religious conviction. A troubled needy mother dead of cancer only to be re-born in a troubled needy wife. A father who was there but never there. A boy who sought love all his life only to be suddenly and irrevocably loved by the whole world. A shy young man ever fretful of any one woman now chased by any and all women. A young man who dreamed of using Charlie Brown to communicate with a silent community who at the close of his life must draw Snoopy to feed his global merchandising empire.

The biographer fails miserably in capturing the conflicts and contradictions in this seemingly placid and assured genius. Michaelis would have greatly aided his project in understanding Schulz if he had examined the lives of those quiet geniuses who probably had a lot in common with Schulz: Roald Dahl and his distrust of the adult world, E.B. White and his withdrawn stoic existence, Chuck Jones and his grasp of the postmodern power of animation, etc.

There is a tempest, and David Michaelis decides to write an ocean with occassional waves.
Happiness is... not very funny (4.5 stars)  Mar 13, 2010
Charles "Sparky" Shultz always wanted to be a cartoonist, and he drew the Peanuts comic strip for nearly 50 years, turning it into a marketing bonanza and its characters into cultural icons. But for all the happiness he brought to so many, he was himself a rather unhappy person. Raised in Minnesota, the only child of German and Norwegian parents who weren't particularly affectionate, he grew up very shy and insecure. His mother's death as he left to serve in WWII compounded his sense of aloneness, and he drew upon these feelings in his comic strip, creating characters with real anxieties and fears that millions related to. David Michaelis tells the ups and downs of Sparky's life as seen through his comics - and the book is loaded with them, illustrating the feelings and experiences he harnessed to make others laugh.

I've always been a big fan of the comics and especially Peanuts. I've still got a bunch of little paperbacks of the strips which my kids love to read, and I remember trying to draw Snoopy pretending to be a vulture in a tree - not so easy it turned out (I think I ended up tracing it). Personally, I always sympathized most with Charlie Brown - unfortunately, I even looked like him as a kid. But I never would have guessed at the creator's general unhappiness.

Initially, I though that Michaelis was reaching too much, trying to draw conclusions and observations about Shultz's upbringing from comics that didn't necessarily prove his point. But the further I got into the book the clearer the pattern emerged and seemed to fit. I've heard the family wasn't entirely pleased with the finished book - which is certainly understandable - but it seemed to me to be thoroughly researched. It's disappointing to learn that someone who so frequently brought a smile to my face didn't always have one for himself, but it's also inspiring to know he succeeded in spite of his challenges. I found this a very compelling and enjoyable book. I highly recommend it.
A thorough biography--grew sadder as I progressed!  Feb 21, 2010
As a huge fan of Peanuts (not the legumes but the long-running comic strip by Charles M Schulz), I nevertheless had put off reading this book Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. Fortunately, I found it on sale for $6.98 (retail $34.98) at my local Barnes & Noble, so I purchased it and finally got around to reading it.

Let me state the punchline first. As fascinated as I was with Schulz, I found myself growing progressively sadder as the book went on. I recognize how biographical Peanuts was and how the different characters represented not only different people in his life, but also different aspects to his uber-guarded personality. He never felt loved nor worthy of love growing up. In a life where men aimed to work a trade with their hands, Sparky's lifelong ambition was to draw a comic strip.

He struggled with every relationship he had growing up, and wanted so much to be a success in the eyes of his parents. His mom never saw him succeed, dying of cancer at the age of 44--hours before Sparky was to go off into the Army and hip deep into World War 2. His guardedness in his relationships stemmed some from his sense of being a "nothing" (as he would describe himself), but also of a belief that he was seldom understood due to his talent that few could see or appreciate.

After coming back from the war, he worked at the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis. After numerous submissions of his work (and numerous rejections), United Syndicate gave young Sparky a chance. His philosophical musings through a children's only, minimalistic comic strip was so different and fresh that soon "Charlie Brown" was a sensation--one that lasted past Schulz' death in 2000. This "nothing from Minnesota" was soon bringing in salaries that few could fathom from a comic strip.

From this book, I would like to glean a few insights that are lessons in what to do and what not to do.


For Charles "Sparky" Schulz, the comic strip was the end all-be all of his life. Nothing could intrude, no one else could contribute, nothing would be allowed to interfere with the dynamic of the characters. When an interviewer asked Schulz about his kids, he began speaking of Charlie Brown and Lucy, Linus and Schroeder--only to be corrected: the interviewer wanted to know about Schulz' children!


Coming from a family who showed very little affection, he grew up as one showing little affection as well. His lack of desire to confront his fiery first wife, Joyce, and to contribute in the discipline of the children and family life in general stemmed, according to many who knew them well, of Sparky not only feeling unable to love, but feeling unlovable. He would not allow anyone into the world of Peanuts, never allow anyone to contribute an idea, and would as a result exclude himself from the particulars of anything regarding the household. This manifested itself in some very sad and unimaginable ways.

The divorce from his first wife, Joyce, is especially heart-wrenching. How important is it for married couples to be involved and supportive of each others' endeavors! How important is it for fathers to be actively involved physically and spiritually in the lives of their children.


Sparky had a fear of intimacy at every level. Anxieties riddled his life, but he refused to seek out help because was afraid that any change in him would change the dynamic of the strip, and thus its ultimate success. In fact, the more depressed and anxiety-ridden his life was, he believed the more depth the strip had. He remained secluded, guarded, and never feeling safe in his clear status as the most influential cartoonist in American history as well as a sought-out philosopher and commentator of the age. Charlie Brown never kicked the football, never spoke to the little red-headed girl, and only until the end had he actually won a baseball game. Schulz once said that "Nice is not funny." This fear of intimacy and closeness bled profusely into his strips.

Yet, I am grateful for his inclusion of the Luke 2 birth narrative in A Charlie Brown Christmas--the most enduring and endearing of all Christmas specials, having run for 45 years consecutively! I wish Schulz had recognized the gospel power at the core of his life.


At one point after the War, Sparky joined the Church of God and was very involved in church--only in later years to turn his back on fundamental orthodoxy. His progressive liberalism was kept under wraps, for fear of hurting the influence of his comic strip which sought to appeal to everyone. Schulz had a high regard for Jesus and the Bible, but did not believe that any absolute truth existed. Seeing his decline from being one strong in the matters of faith to being one who all but abandoned it is a tragedy to see. Moving away from this base truly affected some decisions Schulz made in his personal life.


In conclusion, one must recognize that God gives enormous talents and ambition to some that, when harnessed, prove very influential. Even in 2010, Charlie Brown is still known, loved, and understood. Yet, Michaelis has given such a thorough account of this iconic cartoonist, author, philosopher, and (we must remember) a human being. We must beware of projecting our own conceptions of an individual on that individual. I'm thankful for his contribution in Peanuts. His insights made (make) me think and observe the world much differently!

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