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Friday, October 19, 2007

I always thought Charles M. Schulz was a genius, and honestly I didn't care too much about his private life. I always admired his work and I grew watching the Charlie Brown Television specials and reading the strips, which I adored in their spanish version ("Carlitos".) I felt their characters close to my personality, which is pretty much complex.

The strip was about what Schultz knew best, and that was his very own life. Complex and double standarded: a guy who thought nobody cared or loved him but, at the same time, someone who was using his own emotions to create art and, the most important thing: to tell us life is not a bed of roses and children can be pretty cruel.

On the night of Saturday, February 12th, 2000, a few hours before the papers of the world publish the last sunday strip, Schulz died of colon cancer. Now I'm sure it was also because of pain, and he knew he wouldn't last more than a day without seeing his work on papers. He didn't announce it publicly until december 1999, but there were signs that something wasn't right with his health and his mind. Schulz became a manic Christian preacher and a teller of jokes he himself only would understand.

With the release of the new Michaelis book, we finally understand Charles M. Schulz was a man born to suffer, but turned this condition into a virtue and, of course, art. I'm sure this story is the real thing: no wonder why his children are furious with the statements the author has made in the book. According to some people, he didn't care too much about humanity, and children. He never showed love to his own, anyway.

We are humans, and Schulz proved to be an important one for the Western Culture. Even thought he never "believed" he was loved, or understood, he knew he was doing something big.

See the Article I wrote in 2000 here. (in spanish)

Peanuts creator Schulz led secret life of misery

By Arthur Spiegelman

Fri Oct 19, 7:43 PM ET

Good Grief, Charles Schulz. The creator of the beloved Peanuts comic strip was a shy, lonely man who used his child-like drawings to depict a life of deep melancholy, according to a controversial new biography.

The book is based on six years of research, unlimited access to family papers, more than 200 interviews and a close reading the 17,897 strips Schulz wrote and drew. It portrays Schulz as a man who felt unseen and unloved even if his readers numbered in the hundreds of millions.

Biographer David Michaelis, author of "Schulz and Peanuts," said the cartoonist was also a man who could neither forget nor forgive any slight or lonely moment.

Not for a minute did he believe that "Happiness was a warm puppy" -- and he may not have believed in happiness at all.

"He thought it was impossible to draw a happy comic strip and actually he was fond of saying that 'Happiness is a sad song,"' Michaelis said in a recent interview.

The cartoonist's family says it is very unhappy with the 655-page portrait of Schulz, who died in 2000 at the age of 77, and say they do not recognize the man on display.

Stan Getz's Children Of The World album cover, art by Charles M. Schulz (1978)

His son Monte Schulz told Newsweek magazine: "Why would all of us (children) gather at his bedside for three months if we hadn't felt enormous affection for him?"

"Had we known this was the book David was going to write, we would not have talked to him."

But they did talk to Michaelis and the writer stands by his findings. "Charles Schulz was a funny, warm and charming man with a great sense of calm and decency. But he also had a lifetime of being lonely, misunderstood and unhappy," he said.


Michaelis says that to the day he died, Schulz could recall the terror of being separated as a boy from his mother on a crowded streetcar in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Schulz never stopped believing that he had been forsaken and would be left behind, that nobody cared," wrote Michaelis.

"In his work, indifference would be the dominant response to love. When his characters attempt to love, they are met not just by rejection but by ongoing, even brutal indifference -- manifested either by insensitivity or as deeply fatalistic acceptance."

All of Schulz's beloved characters -- Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy -- seem to have been torn from his life.

Michaelis says a close reading of the comic strips reveal them to be a Rosetta stone in which Schulz puts the most intimate details of his private life on display, including a romance that led to the breakup of his first marriage.

He says the bossy Lucy was inspired by his first wife, Joyce, who had no patience with his worrying and used to tell him during his bouts of melancholy, "Snap out of it."

Charlie Brown had a big head because Schulz's father continually warned him about getting a swelled head. Charlie Brown's dreams of grandeur had no place in Schulz's working class world.

As to the family's criticism of his book, a note of regret can be heard in Michaelis' voice but he says a biographer has to draw the line between different views of the subject.

"I don't think there is one version of a man's life. I interviewed a lot of people who said Charles Schulz was a humble man, a shy man, a warm man and a sweet man. But they all also said he was a complicated man. I was not out to get him, but to understand him."


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