Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who's a Good Man?

I have read another, similar, review of it elsewhere, but this New Yorker piece gets at the gist of the new Charles Schulz biography:

Later in the same section, he writes, “Charlie Brown has to be the one who suffers, because he is a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning.” This from a man who was making four million dollars in 1975 and was to receive, in the twenty-five years ahead, as much as sixty-two million a year, from the proceeds of the world’s most widely syndicated strip and of shrewdly managed licenses for merchandise (clothing, books, toys, greeting cards), advertising (cameras, cars, cupcakes, life insurance), translations (Arabic, Basque, Malay, Tlingit, Welsh), animated television specials, and the musical comedy “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which went through forty thousand productions, involving two hundred and forty thousand different performers. Behind the bland face a fiercely competitive spirit blazed; as Snoopy challenged Charlie Brown for the starring role in the strip, his creator bragged, “He is the most recognized character in the world, much more so than Mickey Mouse”—a gratuitous put-down of his mightiest predecessor in multimedia self-exploitation, Walt Disney.

Who wrote that passage? Updike. Which makes perfect sense, when you consider the chronology of their fame. But also when you look into the interplay of imaginative personality and small-town background, the Cold War backdrop of their work, the cleavage between fantasy and reality, and their reaction to it, and how it propelled their art.

(I wrote about Schulz earlier here).

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