Letter to Schulz biographer: That's not the Sparky I knew
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 3:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 9:00 p.m.
Edwin C. Anderson Jr. is an attorney and a Santa Rosa resident.Editor's note: Early in 2007, Santa Rosa attorney Edwin C. Anderson Jr., a longtime friend and legal adviser to cartoonist Charles Schulz, reviewed the manuscript of a soon-to-be-published biography of Schulz. What follows are excerpts from a letter in which Anderson responded to author David Michaelis. It is timely because of the controversy generated by the book and Michaelis' appearance last week in Schulz's hometown.
Writing a biography of someone with Sparky's extraordinary success and popularity is not an easy task. I believe I have heard you say, and your interviews seem to support it, that everyone has his/her own Sparky.
I knew Sparky well for almost four decades and was involved with him and Jeannie (his wife) in a variety of travels and events, and I agree with your observation. But I must tell you, David, that my Sparky is seldom to be found in a good part of your book. When he is, too often he is followed by negative comments that seem to be in support of your search referred to in the preface for the "cataclysm that had befallen him."
After you met with Jeannie in my office in January, I received a copy of your e-mails with Monte (Sparky's son) in May 2004, in which he takes exception to your "melancholy, morose, sad and depressed" Sparky and gives detailed support for his father's love of life. In your discussion with Jeannie, she made much the same point, that in your conversations you shared a positive view of Sparky and then contradict it in your text.
After our meeting, I reviewed the preface, along with some of the other portions of the book. In it Sparky is introduced to his reader with concerns, cautioning that, although he may have "appeared" friendly or was "presented" as someone warm, comfortable, familiar and easy to love, a friend of the world, they would discover that the real Sparky was hidden from his millions of fans.
You follow this with your introductory analysis: "all his life he felt alone, spending most of his adult-century yearning to be taken care of, to be understood," asking why, and where had this begun? This and many similar questions and descriptions that recur throughout the manuscript overshadow the opinion held by many of us who knew him.
Instead, you seem to rely on individuals whose acquaintance with Sparky was limited and often distorted by their needs.
It was known, for instance, that Sparky had befriended Lynn Johnston (creator of the strip "For Better or Worse") and supported and respected her as a cartoonist until she, by her own description, became something of a pest.
Sparky was constantly put-upon by strangers or casual acquaintances asking favors -- an original strip, or perhaps a signed copy of one or requests to attend some event, etc. I always thought, and still believe, that Sparky dealt with all of it extremely well. Considering the pressures on him, I was often amazed at his productivity and his discipline.
The "friend" you cite who recognized that Sparky didn't want to get too close to anybody is just wrong. Besides Jeannie and the children, he had many close friends whom he greatly enjoyed. He understood that everyone wanted to share him and let others know of their relationship. He accepted it because he was a great student of human nature. Did it upset him at times? I am sure it did, but he had his priorities and put them first.
There are literally hundreds of stories about Sparky's generosity and sensitivity to friends and strangers alike. Several weeks ago I had lunch with Kay Marquet (president and CEO of the Sonoma County Foundation) who brought along a new staff member, a woman who had gone to school in Japan, and in the fourth grade had a classmate who wanted to be a cartoonist. Because of the popularity of Peanuts in Japan, she wrote Sparky of her friend's ambition. He responded by sending her a signed Charlie Brown drawing. Unfortunately, the next year the friend died, and this young woman told how, in her coffin, the friend had her arms around the Charlie Brown drawing she so cherished. Kay immediately followed with a story about Sparky picking up a substantial hospital bill for a friend whose treatment would otherwise have been denied.
In the four months following Sparky's announcement to the world that he had a terminal illness, he was gratified, and perhaps a little surprised, to realize how much he was loved and appreciated for his contribution, his creativity and the humor he gave the world. It would be both mistaken and tragic if, eight years later, your book asserted to the world that he was not the warm, insightful and generous person they had come to know through his works, but instead, a cold and lonely person who had somehow managed to mislead them all.
I am writing this to you, David, not because I am angry with you. Nor do I feel I have been in some way betrayed by your efforts, since we were not in communication during the six years you have been working on the text. My comments are directed at what I believe is neither a fair, balanced or, perhaps worst of all, not a genuinely insightful picture of Sparky.
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