Sunday, October 28, 2007

Charlie Brown Isn't Used To Winning, So Thank You





When I was a little girl, I had a 45 record of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and in the summer when I felt like making myself cry, I would lock myself in my room and play it over and over again, the melancholy voices of the children singing against Vince Guiraldi's famous jazz tune and transport myself into the season, that even as it is deemed for children, was tinged with sorrow. Reading David Michaelis' biography of Charles Shulz, I'm again reminded of the complicated, subversive, lonely quality of Peanuts. Much has been made of this complicated portrait of the most important cartoonist of the last century; his deep longing for his dead parents, his tendency toward coldness in regards to his wife and children, his phobias about leaving his house for any length of time, his affairs, his obsession with his comic strip to the exclusion of everything else. Like every other genius, he sacrificed nearly everything at the pyre of art. If read carefully, the comic strips document his internal state. And he could imagine doing nothing else. Like many talented people, he understood his brilliance, but he distrusted it and lived in fear of losing his success. When asked what he would do if he wasn't a cartoonist, he answered simply, "I'd be dead."

In an age when children's television is full of thinly veiled "message" characters like Dora the Explorer ("We found it together! Teamwork!"-- Does anybody who remembers childhood actually buy this?) and mind-numbing lessons like "Blues Clues," I miss Charlie Brown and the gang. The perpetual loser, Charlie Brown stands for all of us in our longings, both as children and adults. We see our sadness writ large and also the ability to rise from the ashes -- I had forgotten that when Snoopy's Van Gogh burns up in a fire, he replaces it with an Andrew Wyeth. When Charles Shulz received his first big award, he accepted it saying, "Charlie Brown isn't used to winning, so thank you." And Christmas is coming way too soon now, with all its Charlie Brown Christmas trees that aren't spectacular but just need a little love to become so, enough to bring a person to tears in any season.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." Andrew Wyeth

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Otis Blue Otis Redding

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday! Grouchie will be visiting his first art gallery on Halloween! He's been having panic attacks this week, but promises Mommy he will leave the house next week to see the brilliant new photography exhibit at the DIA East.

7 comments:

Victoria Anne said...

Beautifully written!

I have the same feelings about winter, the way it makes me want to cry..

I love this post =)

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm going to have to seek out that biography. Always loved Peanuts. And you're right, the "message" stories given to kids these days are often so lame and not even remotely related to real experiences.

realbigwings said...

O I loved that Michelle! The whole thing. It was informational and poetic, and really reflected this fall feeling through the character of Charles Schultz. And I love Andrew Wyeth; it makes sense Schultz would too.

~Dawn

eric1313 said...

Like every other genius, he sacrificed nearly everything at the pyre of art. If read carefully, the comic strips document his internal state. And he could imagine doing nothing else. Like many talented people, he understood his brilliance, but he distrusted it and lived in fear of losing his success. When asked what he would do if he wasn't a cartoonist, he answered simply, "I'd be dead."

Wow. Not much else to say. Everyone else expressed all pertinent sentiments.

The longing to be accepted, let alone a success, is something we all can identify with.

Of course, you already said that.

Graham Beal said...

Welcome, Grouchie!

whitenoise said...

Yes, nicely done.

I'm just old enough to remember the original broadcast of that Christmas Special. My kids now play it on DVD every year.

Is your email address still valid? I sent something a while back about your airline background...

JAM said...

When I was a little boy, I'd cry like a baby at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. My family could never understand why, because it ends well. I couldn't explain it then or now, but it has always seemed so sad to me.

And I've had the Vince Guaraldi Trio Christmas CD with that music that I listen to every year, but it's definitely not happy music. Very melancholy.