The new, brief Schulz biography Charles Schulz: an Account for the Young and the Casually Curious, is a self-published, print-on-demand effort with a stated mission. Author Matt Trimble says that other biographies “are often laced with the author’s own interpretations and biases. Therefore, I have attempted to compile a brief, largely factual read”… which is something he does not do. Oh, it’s brief compared to the Michaelis biography (which he on various pages states is “beyond the attention span of anyone who is not the most devoted of fans” and a New York Times best-seller), but at somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 words, certainly longer than the fill-the-school-library-shelf kiddie bios.
But interpretation and biases? I’ve only made it through page 17, but it is stuffed solid with the author’s assumptions and suppositions about how specific things in Schulz’s youth had an impact on his life. Sometimes it seems to be intended to be interpretive, other times it seems more like the author just wanted some florid prose (“When combined with his feelings of being physically plain to the point of becoming invisible, this made for a cocktail of failure within formal schooling.”) I haven’t checked to see to what degrees these insights are his own, and which he is copying from this sources, which includes not only such things as the Michaelis biography, the Schulz museum website, and Andrew Farago’s The Complete Peanuts Family Album, but even to an unlicensed copy of a making of A Charlie Brown Christmas video that he sources to a YouTube channel that posts pirated materials.
Should I have read through the whole thing before reviewing it? Possibly, but as a person who has to proofread copy, it’s just too painful. The writer does not know how to wield commas. And then there’s things like “That is, until American entered into World War I.” I assume he meant “America” (unless the airline was somehow involved.) Is it all factually accurate? Well, not 100%. Even in my limited reading, I found a couple items. Flicking through some pages toward the back I see he referred to the animated specials “having produced the most famous and long-lived Christmas program ever” – most famous perhaps, but it won’t ever be the most long-lived so long as 1964’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer continues to air every year.
There are better bios if you want one of this sort of middle length; Beverly Gherman’s Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz comes to mind. What this book does have going for it is price; the paperback is a mere $5.49, and the Kindle edition is just 99 cents.