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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sometimes Strange Nature of the Biography

I have in front of me the recent Bio: Schulz and Peanuts, By David Michaelis. Peanuts was one of the few strips I read for years. Identified a bit with Charlie Brown. Knew little about Charles Schulz, so it picked it up while roaming the library. Have now read the intro.

Something made me read the Amazon reviews. The reviews were polarized, some loving it and some disliking it. One of those reviews led me to a huge commentary thread about the book at Cartoonbrew. First I had seen the CartoonBrew blog, an interesting find in itself.

Anyway, the thread about the Schulz book has hundreds of entries, almost all criticizing the portrayal of Schulz in the bio. Long pieces by his family members and friends of many years. Each stating that Michaelis had pre established a narrative about Schulz's life, a Citizen Kane/Rosebud metaphor, and printed only things that fit the framework. I read nearly the whole thread. Some heart wrenching and inspirational stories among them. Lots of support for the fact that there is much misrepresentation in the book.

So it gets to the nature of a biography. Who to believe. Michaelis spent seven years researching the book and talked to lots of people who knew him. The commenters, some who were interviewees, say he got many facts and impressions wrong. So its only fair to finish the book now. Or is it? I likely will. And I now have started. I like his presenting some of the Peanuts strips. It does appear the theme started from the very beginning, with the inclusion of some of the Peanuts 'Rosebud' strips, which I do remember, having also seen Citizen Kane for the first time around then. Not fair if that infleunces your choice of material.

Reading the critical thread is a good example of how knowledge can be appended to the printed word. Will the commentary survive the book to give a contrary view? If you plan to or have read the book, read the comment thread.

1 comment:

Elda said...

Thanks for writing this.