November 1999: When Harry Met Sally

Yesterday an old friend sent me a copy of the Peanuts comic strip from 8 November 1999 (above). I confess to having been astonished and skeptical. “No way,” I thought, “was Charles Schulz still drawing dailies in late 1999.”

Turns out, of course, that he was. This must have been one of his last comic strips; he suffered a series of strokes in early December of that year and retired.

I remember as a high school student not only being surprised but being thrilled when I learned that Mohandas K. Gandhi had corresponded with Leo Tolstoy. I was interested in both writers, especially Gandhi, and had mentally filed each in a water-tight compartment that shared no space with the other, that is, ’19th Century writer’ and ’20th Century writer.’ Discovering that their lives over-lapped and that they had actually exchanged ideas was a delightfully defamiliarizing and exciting moment, something akin to studying Coleridge and Blake and then finding out that the two actually met one afternoon and had a long conversation over tea (alas, no record of that exchange survives, but Malcolm Guite does a wonderful job at recreating what might have been said).

Charles ‘Sparky’ Schulz was a great favorite of mine growing up; I spent a great deal of time as a young boy reading comic strip anthologies, huge books that collected daily and Sunday strips, and Peanuts with Dick Tracy and Buck Rogers was an especial favorite. Charlie Brown, of course, had the virtue of also being still published on a daily basis. There is no record of his having corresponded with Rowling before he died in 2000, but it cheers me no end to know that it is possible that he had read a Harry Potter book and felt inspired to share his approval of them in having Sally, Charlie’s younger sister, write him a note.

Please share your unlikely meeting discoveries in the comment boxes, especially if they involve celebrity encounters with J. K. Rowling before she became The Presence. I know that Ian Rankin and the Cursed Child playwright met Jo back in the day; any others?

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