The Davis Enterprise; published May 6, 2009
www.davisenterprise.com

Davis man has a third book about popular comic strip

By Cory Golden
Enterprise staff writer

Growing up in Fresno, Sally Bennett Ryen dreamed of meeting Caroline
Kennedy, who was close to her in age, and Caroline's father, the president.

Just one problem: How would she ever get invited to White House slumber
parties with a dumb name like Sally?

Then, one Tuesday, Ryen's father announced that Charlie Brown had a new
baby sister - and her name was Sally.

"I beamed at the thought of Caroline Kennedy seeing my name, for surely
her dad read the comics to her every morning, just as mine did," writes
Ryen, 54, who is now executive assistant for the UC Davis Offices of the
Chancellor and Provost.

Ryen's story is one of 51 - some happy, some sad, like Charles M.
Schulz's long-running comic strip itself - collected in "Security
Blankets: How 'Peanuts' Touched Our Lives." Derrick Bang, The Davis
Enterprise arts/entertainment editor, co-edited the book with friend and
longtime "Peanuts" licensee Don Fraser.

It marks the 53-year-old Bang's third book about "Peanuts," joining
2000's "50 Years of Happiness: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz" and
2004's "Charles M. Schulz: Li'l Beginnings," the latter of which
focused on the cartoonist's early work.

At Fraser's suggestion, the pair began with the idea of gathering a
book's worth of "cute, poignant or moving anecdotes" about fans'
specific "Peanuts"-related memories - sort of Chicken Soup for the
Snoopy Lover's Soul.

By 2006, they'd inked a contract with publisher Andrews McMeel. That
turned out to be the easy bit.

Finding the stories "turned into nightmare," Bang said.

The pair knew well the world of serious "Peanuts" collectors, but "we
both felt that the best stories would come not from über-fans, but from
just plain folks, and how do you reach them?"

Without the advantages of a tool like the now-popular social networking
Web site Facebook, they sent a news release out to newspapers, a few of
which printed it, built a Web site and counted on word of mouth.

Two deadlines for the book came and went without enough submissions.

By January 2008, the co-editors had at last amassed enough to complete
the book. From 230 finalists, Bang and his wife, Gayna, and Fraser and
his wife, Dianne, chose what they felt represented a good mix (or as
Bang said he put it, "We can only have so many stories about stuffed
Snoopies.")

They discovered many common themes. There were teachers for whom Charlie Brown and the gang became a way to introduce themselves to students or tales of children who faced life-threatening surgeries while clutching a
Snoopy. Some met Schulz, or wrote to him, and were inspired by his
graciousness.

"All of us have flash-point memories - things that from that point
forward we never forget until the day we die. It is astonishing how many
people have memories shaped by inanimate things or concepts," Bang said.

Other memories were striking for their singularity, like the story of a
girl whose father used to bring her along to the bar, where the father
drank too much and the little girl sat sipping orange juice, her Snoopy
beside her.

"Whether they are accomplished writers or are merely a person who
probably has never put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, except for
personal correspondence, people have an ability to convey what matters
to them. That's neat," Bang said.

For the way "Peanuts" connected with people around the world, he
credited the "special kind of genius" of Schulz, who died in 2000, for
crafting a world that was "timeless, placeless, that tended not to take
sides and was gently moralistic."

Bang and Fraser have their own "Peanuts" memories, of course.

Bang, for example, can tell you that on Dec. 9, 1965, he'd just turned
10 and was dressed in a dark red-and-black checked bathrobe, pajamas and
slippers watching the premiere of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on television.

For what the co-editors call a "Peanuts moment," a special, significant
memory, however, Bang suggested one more.

In the late '50s and early '60s, his father, Ric, whom Enterprise
readers will know as a jazz columnist, worked in the aerospace industry
in Southern California. Sometimes, he traveled on business.

In those days, books could be found in vending machines at airports.
Perhaps a half-dozen times, just as young Derrick was learning to read,
his father returned home from the road and handed him the gift of a new
"Peanuts" book.

"Even though I was never with him, I can see him standing in front of
one of those vending machines, trying to find 'Peanuts' books and then
sliding in the change. It's a story filled with warm fuzzies."

Reach Cory Golden at cgolden@davisenterprise.net

 

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related links: 
Schulz Museum

Andrews McMeel Publishing