It’s silly to rate cartoonists, but around here, as anyone who follows Ink Spill knows, James Thurber is the #1 New Yorker cartoonist. Thinking about him on the eve of his birthday (he was born in Columbus, Ohio, December 8, 1894) I stood in front of the Thurber paperback section of our cartoon library, looking at title after title. After taking several of the books down and thumbing through, I realized that there’s no better way to celebrate the man than by simply showing his work (or, in this case, some of it). Not all his titles are in the photograph, but the span of his career is represented (in paperback form) from Is Sex Necessary (co-authored with E.B. White) all the way up to the last book published while he was alive, Lanterns & Lances (it came out in April of 1961, just seven months before he died).
There are no favorites here, but I confess a fondness for the low-key graphics of the Penguin English paperbacks, with their vertical orange borders (there’s a Japanese copy of The Last Flower in the photo as well — I suppose it would be fun to start collecting Thurber editions from around the world).
What doesn’t surprise me after all these years of looking at Thurber’s work is that his drawings never disappoint. The seal in the bedroom never seems less than a miracle; the present Mrs. Harris on the bookcase continues to baffle in the best way; the naive domestic burgundy continues to amuse, the War Between Men & Women never truly ends, and Dr. Millmoss has yet to be accounted for.
And…a little more Thurber:
William Shawn, The New Yorker‘s second editor (he presided over the magazine from 1952 through 1987) died on this day in 1992. Here’s a short piece marking the day.
If you have the double issue of the New Yorker dated December 28 1992 & January 4 1993, this would be a good day to take another look through. It contains a wonderful section, “Remembering Mr. Shawn” wherein you’ll find short pieces by, among others, Charles McGrath, Calvin Trillin, John Updike, Lee Lorenz, Kennedy Frazier, Philip Hamburger, Roger Angell, Andy Logan, Mark Singer, John McPhee, William Maxwell, Daniel Menaker, Lillian Ross, and Brendan Gill. There are also a number of b&w photos of Shawn taken by James Stevenson.