Friday, January 30, 2009

Class of One

Nearly 600 pages about a man hunched over his drawing table may not be your cup of tea, but I for one willingly ingested Schulz and Peanuts. In it, David Michaelis' traces one man's rise from a weak and wobbly tot to the undisputed King of syndicated cartooning. Unsure of everything but the pictures in his head, the kid called 'Sparky' knew he could draw from the start. So he did, suffering the wrath of schoolyard brutes as he pondered, jotted and pndered some more. It took World War II to make him a man. When he returned, the modicum of confidence he'd earned overseas helped hone his single-minded pursuit. Soon he was working at Art Instruction by day and on big-headed children by night. You probably know the rest: Midwestern minimalist re-draws the comic strip, imbuing his charming doodles with all the pathos and bathos of the baby-boomers around him. By sketching his interior monologue across the newspapers of America, this Minnesota scribbler found himself lauded as visionary, an exciting new existentialist who seeded doubt where 0nly gags used to go, who dropped philosophy in thought bubbles, who hooked the planet on the thoughts of a dog. Sure, he licensed the crap out of his characters and made a gajillion bones, but besides the damage that turbo Snoopy toothbrush did to my eight year old palette, what's the harm? None that I spot, but it's easy to see why this exhaustive look at the lonesome soul behind Lucy and Linus has its detractors. Schulz's own son has slammed it for painting his father as petulant and depressed. They'd know better than I but, hey, the dude who never let Charlie Brown kick that football won't be remembered for his eternal optimism. He'll be forever renowned as the sadsack who dreamed up that round headed kid, the self-proclaimed 'nobody' whose relentless wit and drive turned a knack for daydreaming into the enrichment of the Twentieth Century.

Not bad for a blockhead...

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