Monday, May 16, 2016

Charles M. Schulz: Conversations edited by M. Thomas Inge (2000)

This is a collection of interviews done throughout the years, Charles Schulz talking to journalists from as disparate publications as The Saturday Evening Post to Penthouse (this is the part where emoji come in handy, as I need something visually to express my agaped agog-ness).  I cherish and revere Peanuts.  It's sort of like The Bible for me, and definitely my personal philosophy, conduct, morals, and even the way I react physically or emotionally to some things, has some basis in the my formative years reading and re-reading Peanuts comics, the newspaper and in the paperback books.

How complicated was Charles Schulz?  If you love Peanuts, you know that the comic strip is deceptively simple.  It's brilliantly deep, particularly in its golden years.  And you want the creator to espouse brilliant deepness, words of wisdom that you can transcribe and pin to your wall.  That's really not going to happen here - and possibly, probably rightly so - Charles Schulz pretty much saved all that deep brilliance and brilliant deepness for those four panels a day (more on Sunday).  And Charles Schulz was possibly, probably a complicated individual, but these interviews only scratch at that.

Each interview, by the way, sort of sounds exactly alike.  They all ask him the same questions, it seems like, a lot about his background, or really lack of artistic background, a lot about the name Peanuts, a lot about his religion.  Later about his politics.  Some of about his family, and how much his kids played a part in the comics.  His divorce rises up in the 1970s (his ex-wife ended up marrying the man who built the famous ice skating rink, which I thought was delightfully scandalous for someone as wishy-washy seeming as Charles Schulz.  I think that also proves he was complicated.

I don't think this could or should be read in one sitting or even ten sittings.  Something to occasionally grab, and then be occasionally intrigued or astounded by Charles Schulz; but those are the gems hidden in some  journalistic dregs.

Charles M. Schulz: ConversationsCharles M. Schulz: Conversations by M. Thomas Inge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Was Charles Schulz complicated or not? And how do journalists interviewing him scratch enough away of his exterior to find that out? Everyone who loves Peanuts knows that the comic strips are deceptively simple; those four panels often contained complexity that was both deep and brilliant, particularly in the golden age of Peanuts (1960s/1970s). The words of Charles Schulz, at least those in this collection of interviews, aren't really very deep or brilliant. You want to be able to gather up his words, sort of like one of your favorite comic strips, and tack it on your wall; but at least to me, nothing really stuck out enough to do that. Possibly, probably, Charles Schulz saved up his brilliance and depth for the comics themselves, and rightly so. That's where he did his talking, and thinking, and philosophizing - not to journalists. That's not to say that these journalists from as disparate publications as The Saturday Evening Post to Penthouse (this is the part where emoji come in handy, as I need something visually to express my agaped agog-ness) didn't try to figure him out. I don't feel like they really did, although biographically speaking I learned a few things. The real question isn't "Is Charles Schulz Charlie Brown?" (asked several times in this book) but "Is Charles Schulz Peanuts?" I think the answer is yes.


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