Five Cent Psychiatry

11 February 2008

The Troubled Legacy of Charles Schulz

A BiographyDavid Michaelis probably didn’t see it coming. When he set out to write Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography with the support of the cartoon legend’s family it should have been simple. Research, review, revise, publish. But somewhere between revision and publication last October the family bailed and the resultant book – a fascinating if dogmatic take on a much-loved figure and his groundbreaking work – became a focal point of commentary about what constitutes biography and an author’s right to interpret a subject.

One of the more curious facts about the book’s launch is that it drew Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, out of his self-imposed seclusion to write a review in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Watterson covered the book somewhat favourably, pointing out its value along with its limitations. John Updike gave it a long, penetrating review in the New Yorker. Other reviewers took it on face value as a relatively definitive account of Schulz’s life. But Patricia Cohen, writing in the International Herald Tribune, pointed out opposition from the Schulz family. Why all the fuss?

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