I recently read the new biography of Charles Schultz (aka ‘Sparky’) by David Michaelis called Schultz and Peanuts. It’s an interesting enough read, full of little details you didn’t know about this troubled man. It has also made me realize that I’m a complete hypochondriac. Or whatever the psychological equivalent is when you take on the characteristics and possible mental twinges of the person’s biography you are reading.
Let me explain further. Schultz felt completely alienated from all his peers at high school. That’s so me. He felt awkward and alone in normal social situations and covered it by acting dumb. Yep, that’s me, if dumb = goofy. He was completely unable to approach girls. That’s me, if you replace girls with boys. He didn’t get along with his family, preferring to draw by himself. Oh yeah, that’s me, if drawing is writing or anything else that requires my undivided attention. He got bad grades to prove his dumbness. That’s not really me, but it could be? He turned his funny little strip (actually, it really wasn’t funny – it was mostly sad and mean, but for some reason people still liked it.) into a commercial empire. I sold out to the big-business world of educational endowments, which is practically the same thing, right? He was distant and not affectionate towards his kids. I don’t even HAVE any. He cheated on both his wives A LOT and was a generally needy only-child brat. Ok, I may be needy, but I hope I’m not that bad.
I guess what the book did was really opened my eyes further to the commercialism and fantasy around me. I was never really a big fan of Peanuts (do you italicize a comic strip?). I didn’t watch the specials, I didn’t really enjoy that particular comic in the Sunday paper, and I didn’t even see A Charlie Brown Christmas until my high school soccer team got me the video. I always felt sorry for poor Charlie, and mad at Lucy, and though Snoopy was fun, it was generally an unfortunate strip. I do, however, remember the Snoopy Sno Cone Machine. It was coveted, though offhand I can’t really remember why, or even where I saw the first one. I just knew I wanted it without knowing why, or thinking about the reasons behind it.
I guess that’s what I got from this biography most of all. It wasn’t a bad book. It really sought to portray the truth behind an adored man who was secretive about his personal life. It showed his flaws honestly, and some of the rougher spots of his personality that abraded those closest to him. But it also showed the kindnesses he bestowed, the way he brought joys to other’s lives, the talent he strived to use, and the nature of his personal drive. He was a great man, if not a good one, who changed the world through something he was good at. And that’s nothing to scoff at, despite my tendency to scoff.
At the same time, a part of those changes went in directions I’m completely disrespectful of. For what good reason could I want a Sno Cone Machine? It would probably be a rare treat for my parents to let me use it. Was it the respect of my peers I was after? Or some commercial ideal of greatness? Or something more elusive, some unfulfilled wish that I think the Machine will fill? Is my longing just the same as Sparky’s quest for love, and am I just as foolishly confident I will never find it?