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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography | [David Michaelis]

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in American culture. Now, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of Schulz: at once a creation story, a portrait of a hidden American genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the national imagination.
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Publisher's Summary

Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in American culture. Now, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of Schulz: at once a creation story, a portrait of a hidden American genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the national imagination.

The son of a barber, Schulz was born in Minnesota to modest, working class roots. In 1943, just three days after his mother's tragic death from cancer, Schulz, a private in the army, shipped out for boot camp and the war in Europe. The sense of shock and separation never left him. And these early experiences would shape his entire life.

With Peanuts, Schulz embedded adult ideas in a world of small children to remind the reader that character flaws and childhood wounds are with us always. It was the central truth of his own life, that as the adults we've become and as the children we always will be, we can free ourselves, if only we can see the humor in the predicaments of funny-looking kids. Schulz's Peanuts profoundly influenced the country in the second half of the 20th century. But the strip was anchored in the collective experience and hardships of Schulz's generation: the generation that survived the Great Depression and liberated Europe and the Pacific and came home to build the postwar world.

Michaelis brilliantly weaves Schulz's story with the cartoons that are so familiar to us, revealing a man we've never fully known and shedding new light on a touchstone of American life.

©2007 David Michaelis; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"This is a fascinating account of an artist who devoted his life to his work in the painful belief that it was all he had." (Publishers Weekly)
"This fine, exhaustive text is well-organized and knowledgeable....Michaelis offers considerable insight into the semiotics of comics and the psyche of a master of the craft." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (96 )
5 star
 (29)
4 star
 (36)
3 star
 (24)
2 star
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3.8 (21 )
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4.0 (21 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Bruce Fairview, NC, United States 05-03-08
    Bruce Fairview, NC, United States 05-03-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Not as dark as you've heard"

    This seemed to me to be a fair and overwhelmingly positive portrait of Schulz. I'm not sure what his kids are upset about--so Dad was generally melancholy and a bit removed. What do they think made him a cartoon genius? And his love for them and for his wives is also quite palpable. The stories about where all the ideas and characters for Peanuts came from are quite entertaining. The story of A Charlie Brown Christmas alone is quite revealing. I was rather disappointed not to hear a bit more about the business end of things--how Peanuts became an industry and how Schultz's characters wound up selling snack cakes and life insurance and all that. There's an amazing business story that's not told here, and the author suggests that that's because Schultz himself sort of let it happen via his surrogates rather than directing it himself. But that seems a bit of a copout. On the other hand, the book is quite long enough, there's no real dross here, so I can't complain too much. Recommended.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Kenner, LA, United States 04-10-08
    Michael Kenner, LA, United States 04-10-08
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    "Peanuts Characters"

    When reading the Peanuts cartoons, I often wondered if the characters were in any way developed from children or people Mr. Schulz knew.
    It was interesting to learn they were so interrelated with Mr. Schulz' own family and friends.

    It was also interesting to read about Mr. Schulz' life.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alex Elwood, VIC, Australia 12-14-08
    Alex Elwood, VIC, Australia 12-14-08
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    "Better without the psychobabble"

    Although this biography is fascinating, there is too much of a focus on the gruesome cancer Schulz's mother had and too much pseudo psychiatry about him being the loner type.
    It was great to hear how he developed his cartooning craft and how sheer persistence helped him win through.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth BLACKBURN, Australia 02-20-08
    Ruth BLACKBURN, Australia 02-20-08
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    "Schulz and Peanuts"

    A very interesting book. Schulz was very unlike I would have imagined from his cartoons, which I think are wonderful.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kurt Bainbridge, NY, USA 05-18-08
    Kurt Bainbridge, NY, USA 05-18-08
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    "Worth reading * 3"

    A somewhat dry biography, this book gives the reader amazing insight into the eccentric Schultz. If you are a 'Peanuts' fan then you will appreciate learning how the strip's characters came to be and why they act they way that they do.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lance Fountain Valley, CA, United States 09-26-12
    Lance Fountain Valley, CA, United States 09-26-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A must for any Charles Schulz and Peanuts fan"
    What did you love best about Schulz and Peanuts?

    I enjoyed every chapter of the book. from beginning to the end.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Schulz and Peanuts?

    There were a lot of memorable moments. I liked to hear about his childhood and and his pitching Peanuts to the syndicates. The last days of his life were very sad.


    Which character – as performed by Holter Graham – was your favorite?

    Holter Graham did a fantastic job


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I choked up towards the end


    Any additional comments?

    Being a cartoonist myself, Charles Schulz has been an inspration my whole life. This book was well written. It gave me great Insight to this man and the strip I've adored all my life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin Glendale, CA, United States 08-31-11
    Colin Glendale, CA, United States 08-31-11
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    "Schulz and Peanuts"

    After hearing about this book from my wife I thought this book would have been full of all kinds of crazy sex cheating. He stayed with his difficult oppressive wife for 20 years and they grew apart, oh well... not the sex filed tabloid it was made out to be. Don't understand why the family is upset, Schulz was AMAZING... the book does a great service to him and I think he would have liked it if he had read it. 50 years of Peanuts, holy crap! A must read for any cartoonist or animation fan.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Woodway, TX, United States 08-11-10
    Stephen Woodway, TX, United States 08-11-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Excellent for any Peanuts fan"

    For those of us who grew up reading Peanuts, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy seemed like real people. They were, in reality, products from the imagination of Charles Schulz. Michaelis does an excellent job of revealing the man behind the strip.
    It is a three dimensional picture of a very talented man who found his true love, cartooning, at an early age. He had a difficult time dealing with the messier aspects of life, and retreated from them. In the end, the Peanuts characters seemed more real to him than the people who surrounded him. It is a sympathetic portrayal, but it does not canonize Schulz.
    IIRC, the book was somewhat controversial when it came out, as it covered two extramarital affairs by Schulz and his oldest daughter's abortion. These are discussed.
    Of more interest is the description of the characters from the strip and their real life influences. Lucy, for example, was representative of his first wife. In her relationship with Charlie Brown, she berated him and pulled the football away from him. With Schroeder, she smothered him with love, but he was oblivious, and quite happy without her. Both of these were aspects of their married life. An excellent listen, and the reader is good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 10-26-09
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 10-26-09 Member Since 2003
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    "Why Do I Bother?"

    Whenever I read biographies of famous characters (Johnny Carson, Katherine Hepburn, etc.) I am dissappointed. This was no exception. It is interesting to find out about these people, but not a good read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-30-08
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-30-08

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "Not enough substance for length"

    I had heard this was a five star book, so I may be underrating it in my disappointment. I did learn about the "semiotics" of comics and will read comics differently in future. As for the portrait of Schultz, I thought there not enough substance for the length of the listen. My rule of thumb is, if I can absorb a book on fast play while doing something else (which I could with this bio), it should be written more concisely. Michaelis offers a psychological portrait of Schultz, but in audio format, it's hard to judge the quality; for ex., what were his chief sources versus how much was just conjecture based on "Sat. Eve. Post" and "Life" features?

    There is some good social history rounding out the personal portrait, but the portrayal of one important historical point irked me: Michaelis propagates the Hiroshima myth: that is, that millions of Americans (including perhaps Schultz) would have died in the Pacific theatre of WWII if A bombs had not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Declassified docs show clearly that Japan was ready to surrender before A bomb, and now most historians agree the A bomb was primarily a show of strength to Russia for post war dominance. If the author got that detail wrong, what else might he have?

    There was more than enough of the commercial side of the Peanuts franchise for my taste, unlike a reviewer below.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • Harald-Gerd
    BirkenauGermany
    3/29/09
    Overall
    "Are you a good man Charles Schulz ?"

    Yes, this is a very interesting audio-book but you really need to be into Peanuts to like it. Despite Sparky Schulz' great achievement of 50 years of Peanuts his life is not so spectacular. Of course: he spent most of his time at the drawing board. However, it's fascinating to understand the deeper meaning of the strip, of finding out how he came up with his ideas and characters. The book manages a good mix between Schulz' life and the coming to life of his characters. It surely is no adventure story, but an insight into the life of one the world's greatest comic artists.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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