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Review: 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz's essays show a master observer

"I worry about almost all there is in life to worry about," wrote Charles Schulz at the age of 53, when the creator of the Peanuts comic strip was the most beloved and successful artist in America, an adored husband and father of five. "Perhaps some form of maturity should take care of this, but in my case it didn't."

And it never would. "I'm not a complete grownup," Schulz confessed 20 years later. "I'm always insecure." That this dread should have coexisted with the artist's philosophical humor and love of God and life, right up until his death in February 2000, represents the paradox at the heart of My Life With Charlie Brown, the first collection of Schulz's major writings.

Because Schulz was a major figure of American arts and letters — it was his contribution, more than anyone else's, that elevated the comic strip from low-rent ephemera to exhibitions at the Louvre — the rationale for this book is self-evident. But the impetus for it, published with the cooperation of Schulz's estate, appears to be his family's well-publicized disappointment with David Michaelis' mammoth, critically acclaimed Schulz and Peanuts (2007). The intent of this collection, M. Thomas Inge writes, "is to round out the portrait of the man" by ensuring that Schulz "speaks entirely for himself."

Schulz's prose is straightforward, seldom as elliptical, poetic or biting as the dialogue he invented for Linus and Lucy. Yet these essays prove compelling, not merely for the insight they offer into the genius of Peanuts, but because Schulz was so penetrating an observer. "When I was small," he wrote, "I believed that my face was so bland that people would not recognize me if they saw me some place other than where they normally would." Most revealing is the rapturous witness he bore, at a cartoonists' convention, to what truly motivated him: "I am still searching for that wonderful pen line that comes down . . . when you are drawing Linus. . . . To get feelings of depth and roundness, and the pen line is the best pen line you can make. That's what it's all about."

My Life With Charlie Brown

By Charles M. Schulz; edited by M. Thomas Inge

University of Mississippi Press, 193 pages, $25

Review: 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz's essays show a master observer 05/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 14, 2010 6:01pm]
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