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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,609 ratings  ·  555 reviews
Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in American culture. Now, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of Schulz: at once a creation story, a portrait of a hidden American genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he ...more
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Harper (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Scott
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

"Schulz's characters reminded people of the never-ceasing struggle to confront one's vulnerabilities with dignity. Humanity was created to be strong; yet, to be strong and still fail is one of the universally identifying human experiences. Charlie Brown never quits . . . " -- the author on page 189

Snoopy and Charlie Brown (a 'dog and his boy,' you might say). Siblings Linus and Lucy. Best friends Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Solid supporting characters Schroeder, Pig-Pen, and Frieda. Fo
...more
Kiekiat
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I must confess that before starting this book I knew very little about the "Peanuts" comic strip, less about its creator Charles Schulz and, though I had read the comic sporadically while growing up, I could not (and still cannot) name all the characters of the strip and the nuances of their relationships. I also watched just about all of the Charlie Brown TV specials as a kid.

My point is that I am not a "Peanuts" fanboy and am so clueless, for example, that I had no idea that the character Pep
...more
Darren
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Luciously readable, fascinating, and flawed account of the life of the creator of Charlie Brown. I first decided to read this book because of a massive roundtable featured in the latest issue of "The Comics Journal," the basic conclusion being that the book does the real-life Schulz no justice. (I read the book, and then read the roundtable.)

Monte Schulz, the son of the great cartoonist, kicked off the roundtable with a massive essay that's divided into three parts: a brief memoir of his time an
...more
Carol Storm
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Charles M. Schulz was more than a cartoonist -- he was an American original, one of those profoundly revolutionary individuals who erases an entire art form and reinvents it in his own image.

The way Babe Ruth transformed baseball, the way Elvis Presley transformed popular music, the way Clint Eastwood transformed the American western, the way H.P. Lovecraft transformed modern horror, Schulz transformed the American comic strip.

Before Schulz, all was darkness and slime. Brenda Starr's drooling
...more
bup
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: web cartoonists whose characters owe a lot to Schulz
I've loved Peanuts since I can remember. I really liked Peanuts - the actual comic strip that appeared daily - not the Hallmark cards and movies and countless tv specials (save the original Christmas one). It drives me absolutely bonkers when people talk about what gentle humor it was, and how it was part of a nicer time that is gone today, and talk about it like it was a bunch of precious princess pony fairies.

(Admittedly, it drives me absolutely bonkers whenever anybody talks about Peanuts
...more
James
Mar 01, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a pretty good book considering it’s about a person who was boring; lonely, distant, anxious, depressed, sad, religious, melancholy, and a teetotaler too. Charles Schulz did not drink, did not smoke, and did not swear. Picasso or F. Scott Fitzgerald he was not.

On his honeymoon, Charles Schulz looked at his bride and said, “I don’t think I can ever be happy.”

David Michaelis has achieved something truly remarkable and impressive with this work, a fascinating examination of a creative proces
...more
James Murphy
Jun 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Everybody loves Peanuts. The enchanting characters Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and all the rest speak a universal language we identify with. This biography of Charles Schulz reveals the times and personal influences on its subject as well as any I've read lately. In telling the story he spends about a third of its length on his childhood, which may be appropriate because that was the world Schulz dealt with in his strip every day. Michaelis's analysis of his subject has to include a h ...more
Chadwick
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who love biography, people who love Peanuts
Recommended to Chadwick by: Bill Watterson
Shelves: comics, biography
This may really be the first critical biography ever written about a comics artist. The format is revolutionary, actually using the strips to highlight the events of Schulz's life and how he expressed what he felt and thought in the day to day unfolding of Peanuts. If Michaelis is right, and his extensive, exhaustive research seems to support him in this, Schulz may have been one of the most autobiographically transparent artists of the 20th century. Some of his strips are downright creepy after ...more
^

“Schultz & Peanuts”. Here is a biography ostensibly of two subjects; the clue lies in the title. Inside, Charles M. Schulz, the boy (and later the man), is depicted as being impressively insignificant and insecure; whilst unsurprisingly the innate nature of the Peanuts cartoon strips are drawn from the values and family life experience of their creator. The puzzle lies in trying to understand just how quite such an unremarkable life engendered a product that went, in today’s terminology, ‘viral’
...more
Lindsay Russo
Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it
I think the reason I had trouble getting through this is because I think Peanuts is depressing on the whole. It is a world where you lose your voice as an adult, girls screw with boys and a beagle's dream world is much more thrilling than reality.

The writing was stellar, and the hook of following the man from his first strip to his last was a great framing device for a man who is made out to be such an iconic figure. A true product of the Midwest's flat landscape, you have to look hard and clos
...more
Mikhail
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books
I, for the most part, found this book to be an enjoyable read. I loved how honestly Michaelis portrayed Schulz as basically an asshole, because, it seems, that he actually was. My only gripe with the book is how repetitive it can get. Michaelis regurgitates a lot of what he already establishes earlier on in the biography (i.e. Sparky's insecurities and self pity and etc.) He even repeats comic strips even though Schulz had made 18,000 to choose from. There were also segments in the book where in ...more
Jeffrey
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
As much as this book is getting negative reaction from the Schulz family as character assassination or whatever, I've really enjoyed reading. The way Michaelis pulls elements of Schulz's life from the actual Peanuts strips really pays off. But whatever flaws he exposes Charles Schulz as having actually makes me like Schulz more. For a cartoonist who has perhaps been sainted or put up on a pedastel, this book makes him much more complex, and makes him above all human.
nicole
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
let the record show: schulz was kind of a tool box.

the author goes out of his way to attribute this to the early loss of his mother and inability to accept the love other people give him, but there's only so much artistic temperament one can take while reading a 672 page book. also, he was such a skirt chaser that i found the whole "oh i don't understand why anyone would love me" excuse to be full of crap.

i liked the idea of the peanuts strips used to physically illustrate inside jokes and smal
...more
Nick
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A very well researched biography of Charles Schulz, at least until the 1970’s. There is a lot of detail from his birth and childhood, the influence and death of his beloved mother, his time spent in the Army during World War Two, his career and first marriage. Michaelis hardly looks at Schulz’s life and second marriage from about 1975 to 2000, so this was a disappointment in this respect. However, well worth reading for the Peanuts fan.
Allison
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
I admit that I'm not a die-hard Peanuts fan. I adore Charlie Brown and Snoopy, but I don't have such grandiose ideas about their creator to be put off by some of the less wholesome details of Charles Schulz's life. I read somewhere that a few of his children were displeased with the way their father is depicted in Michaelis' book. As far as artists go, Schulz was a saint, never touching drugs or alcohol and cranking out over 17,000 Peanuts strips in his career. The characters are so much a part ...more
Larry
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book delivers the goods on Charles Schulz, who, thank God, worked in the pre-Internet world, when content was protected and scores of publications existed so that his genius was unmediated by the selfie generation ... Michaelis delivers an unflinching account of the strange, strange man behind the Peanuts crew. Skilfully written. Read the book for the mother death bed material alone !
bell
I feel like I walked away from this book knowing more about David Michaelis' own neurosis than Schulz's. All texts are filtered through the writer's mind and inevitably reveal much about themselves. It seems to me that Michaelis was obsessed with Schulz's unhappy marriage/problems with attractive women/ distance from his mother. As far as I can tell, Michaelis has his own issues with women. :P

Another flaw is the sheer repetition, redundancy, and random directions. One passage commented on how Sc
...more
Suzanne
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was born in 1963 so I grew up with the Peanuts. Other than Santa's annual visit, A Charlie Brown Christmas was THE highlight of the season. And it was really special as it aired on tv once; it was an event. I remember owning and reading many times Happiness is a Warm Puppy and I had a plush Snoopy. I adored the Peanuts and still make it a point to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas during December.

I'm trying not to mix up my disappointment with what was written about Charles Schulz in this book v
...more
Joe
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am starting the year with a promise to myself that I am going to start writing some kind of review for the books I complete. Being a life long Peanuts fan I looked forward to this biography even though it is highly criticized by his family for being overly dark.
As a l finished the book I asked myself why I am attracted to biographies in general? One thing I have noticed is that there is a lot of commonality in the bios I have recently lived. I have read the bios of Janis Joplin, BB King, Lou
...more
Tien
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't have any clue about Charles Schulz except that he is the creator of Peanuts. My husband is the Peanuts fan and I got this book for him (because of the cover!!). Nothing stopped me from reading it though...

The first half of the book was pretty easygoing but then, it was a bit of a slog for me until nearly the end. It was, however, mostly due to how unhappy he was during his first marriage and how this is mirrored in his comic strips. At this stage, I wasn't sure whether I was regretting
...more
Theresa
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Snoopy growing up, identified heavily with him (strange, I know!), and going to the library usually meant that me and my sisters would check out a bunch of Peanuts books.

This was a great character study of Charles Schultz, and how interesting to see how the cartoons themselves echoed his life and personality. For me, living in Minneapolis, just across the river from the St. Paul that Schultz grew up in, it was interesting to read about locations that I know quite well.

Also interesting t
...more
Gobasso
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Let me say that I am/was a big fan of Peanuts so it was surprising to find out what a repressed, poorly socialized individual Charles Schulz was. He reminds of "Norwegian Bachelor Farmers" and other ornery characters of Lake Woebegone. A good example of not confusing the artist with his work. As far as the book itself, it would seem the author did his research and it is written in an accessible way. Read this only if you are prepared to be disillusioned.
Lynn
Aug 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
Not an interesting enough person to merit this detailed a biography. The more I read, the less I liked Schulz for one thing, and he wasn't even unlikeable in very interesting ways--just cold and boring, like the book.
Nichole
Feb 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
I basically hate Mr Schulz after reading this book. What a whiny, self-deprecating, selfish, brat. I can never read or watch a Peanuts cartoon the same again. I was so depressed after reading this!
Carlo Ruggiero
Started out fine, but it became gossipy like a tabloid, as well as judgmental. Disappointing.
Tracy
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am only about 100 pages in, and I am struggling. I am reading this for a book club, or I would have put this down days ago.

As someone who loved Peanuts growing up, and enjoyed all of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, I find it amazing how much I dislike this book so far! Living in Minnesota most of my life (and currently quite close to the major action of young Schulz's life), I grew up thinking of Charles Schulz as a local hero and feeling nothing but admiration. However, Charles Schulz see
...more
Nick
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I was inspired to read "Schulz and Peanuts" following a visit last summer to the Charles M Schultz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, CA. That visit was an unexpectedly wonderful experience, that made me smile and laugh continually as I wandered the exhibits, and had lunch in the Warm Puppy Cafe. And I had lots of company - people of all ages, languages and origins were also heard to laugh and giggle as they walked around. Yes, I recommend the Charles M Schultz Museum wholeheartedly, to eve ...more
Kurt
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written and well-researched

I read a lot of biographies and histories but am increasingly frustrated by the writing of many of them. Some include too much info that was worth researching but not worth including, like high school chemistry grades of a musician, or were too self-absorbed. Others were simply bad writing, where I repeatedly reread a windy paragraph only to realize there was no information to be learned from it.

This book is fairly lengthy and very well-researched. It has a clean
...more
Aaron W. Matthews
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best amazingly boring person’s biography I’ve ever read. 3.75* Interesting, sleep-inducing, encouraging, depressing, and inspirational all in one. Quite a feat. Schulz (no “T” in that name mind you) was a nerdy, needy momma’s boy desperate for the attention of his father who was ordinary in many ways, but he had incredible ambition - even if it was unconventional. He made the most out of what he had and did more with it than anyone could’ve ever conceived; endearing himself to generations of ...more
Malcolm Frawley
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
How interesting could a 670 page biography of a guy who never went anywhere & never did anything except draw comic strips possibly be? Start this one & find out. The life of Charles Schulz, from shy only child of Minnesotan barber to most successful comic strip creator in publishing history, is an unparalleled page turner. The author, in spite of never having met Schulz, effortlessly manages to fill every 1 of these pages with his subject's personality; his only child solitariness, his awkwardne ...more
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David Michaelis grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and Washington, D. C., was educated at Concord Academy and Princeton University, and is the author of the national bestsellers N. C. WYETH: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; available from Harper Perennial), which won the 1999 Ambassador Book Award for Biography, given by the English-Speaking Union of the United States, and SCHULZ AND PEANUTS: A Biogra ...more

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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
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“[Schulz] came to see that the better part of his shyness was really vanity, or self-centeredness. "Shyness is an illusion," he would say, late in life. "If you get out and do something and talk to people, you don't have to be shy. Shyness is the overtly self-conscious thinking that you are the only person in the world; that how you look and what you do is of any importance.” 6 likes
“Security is having a home town. - Charles Schulz” 4 likes
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