Monday, October 8, 2007

SOUL-MAKING THROUGH ‘BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS’: REVIEW OF CHARLES SCHULZ’S CONTROVERSIAL BIOGRAPHY


“The older I get, the more vividly I remember things that never happened.”
~~ Mark Twain

MEMOIRS AND BIOGRAPHIES TELL US MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR THAN THE SUBJECT
David Michaelis recently finished a biography about cartoonist Charles Schulz, and the Schulz family is upset with the portrayal of the famous cartoonist as a depressed womanizer. The book is on sale now, titled Schulz and Peanuts.

We will learn far more about David Michaelis than Charles Schulz from this ‘biography.’ Every professional biographer or memoirist ultimately writes his or her own story through the life of others, just as every painter reveals his/her soul via the paint-palette of myriad colors. Memoirs and biographies are really covert autobiographies about the interior life of the author, and not nearly as much about the so called subject at the center of the chronicle. That is why Carl Jung refused to allow anyone to write about him, and limited his own ‘autobiographical sketch’ to memories, dreams and reflections. Jung knew there were no facts about the individual soul, only fleeting fictional shadows revealed through enigmatic words and puzzling actions left behind, morphing from one year to the next as they are remembered and passed along. Freud and Dickens destroyed countless pages of personal writings to keep others from interpreting them through biographies or memoirs.

Who among us would want certain episodes, events or periods of our lives brought to the fore and magnified as ‘typical’ or representative through the eyes of a prejudiced individual with his or her internal psychic subjectivities, twisted proclivities and hidden agendas? Those who read these works would do well to remember that they too are reading about their own secret psychic selves, and that the parts of the story which stick to them are the Velcro angels and demons of their own souls. Sadly today, we think these books are factual when in reality they are biographical fiction based on a few vaguely recalled and subjectively reported incidents, always shallow, often incorrect and later disguised as ‘well-researched and objective reporting.’

Every author brings his or her complex inner psychic life and ulterior motives to the project as he/she chooses, focuses on, filters and interprets the material about which he or she writes. Imagine two biographies about Bill Clinton, one written by a radical conservative and another by a raving liberal. You would see two very different people, both resembling Bill Clinton, and neither even recognizable to his closest family and friends. That is why T.S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold emphatically requested that no biographies be written about them. George Eliot called biographies a “disease of English literature.” Leon Edel, a student of biographies wrote:

“Some feel it (writing biographies) to be a prying, peeping and even predatory process…professional biographers have been called ‘hyenas’…”

Edel’s description also fits our modern obsession with celebrities and ‘their lives.’ The predatory Paparazzi, peeping journalists and those of us who view such ‘facts’ are starving for a connection with our own neglected interior lives. We are terrified and out of touch with our own inner selves. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “When you see your many selves that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!" Rather than converse with our own interior psychic archetypal ‘little people,’ as Jung called them, we would rather see them in O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Ted Haggard, Idaho Senator Larry Craig and a pantheon of Holly(holy)wood Stars.

Read this book ‘about Schulz’, or any biography or memoir with a view to first of all learning more about the author David Michaelis than Charles Schulz, and secondly about your own many selves. Ralph Waldo Emerson brilliantly said, “I can see myself in every fable.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly said and so true!

Mary said...

Great work.