Letter to Schulz biographer: That's not the Sparky I knew

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.

Dear David:

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.

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