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Recent Biography of Charles Schulz Under Fire from Family

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David Michaelis’ recent biography of Charles Schulz, Shulz and Peanuts brings up an interesting concept. Is a biography about the subject or the biographer?

Michaelis contacted the Schulz family in 2000 to see if they would be open to Michaelis writing a biography of Charles Schulz. The family opened up their hearts and records to him and in return, according to the family Michaelis wrongly portrayed Schulz as a depressed and bitter womanizer.

Some of the family who commented felt deceived and disappointed. Jean Schulz, Shulz's second wife, was a temperate in her comments. She found the book was not a “full portrait” because “Sparky” was full of laughter but she recognized that "Happiness is not funny.” Interestingly, Schulz said that the biographer was “writing this for himself” and that "[h]e's got to be satisfied.– 

Which begs the question: What is the purpose of the biography?

Source: New York Times (and Times Review).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

One Comment

  1. Robin
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 15:52:49

    The purpose of a biography is determined by the biographer, as it is ultimately his or her vision of the subject — an interpretation of a life. Unfortunately, when one writes about people whose immediate families are still around and vocal, there will be conflict. That doesn’t mean that Michaelis’s biography is right and Schulz’s family is wrong or vice versa. But it does mean that any posthumous view of a famous person is always an interpretation, or more properly, a collection of interpretations.

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