James Thurber: “What Do You People Really Want, Anyway?”

Last Sunday the 6th New Yorker Album was in this spot — today it’s The 5th New Yorker Album, published in 1932. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to look through and it has a bonus: the Foreward is by James Thurber. In 1932 he was in top form as a cartoonist and writer, as well as one of the magazine’s stars. Rereading his Foreword this rainy Fall morning I found parts of it touchingly relevant.

Here’s how it opens: 

“What do you people really want, anyway?” is awfully funny.  It makes me think of the many many comments I’ve read on the New Yorker‘s Facebook pages (its flagship page and its off-shoot New Yorker Cartoons page).  My guess is that every single New Yorker cartoon posted online receives varying proportions of praise and condemnation, validating for the zillionth time the oldie but goodie cliche, “Everyone has an opinion.”

Last year I was asked by Gil Roth on his Virtual Memories podcast, “What is a New Yorker cartoon?” and my answer (after freezing a moment) was something like “It’s whatever the editors (at the time) think is a New Yorker cartoon.” In other words, there’s no set of rules, regulations, guidelines and requirements posted on one of the magazine’s walls. How boring would that be. It would also be the death of the magazine’s cartoons. Thurber addresses this in his foreword:

Thurber sums up his Foreword perfectly.  Perfectly for 1932, and perfectly for now and tomorrow at The New Yorker:

Some notes about the 5th Album: the album itself is somewhat more difficult to find than most of the others. Finding it with a dust jacket is even more of a challenge.  This was the final Album missing from the Spill’s set of dust-jacketed New Yorker Albums.  Some years back two generous individuals helped fill the gap.  I’m indebted to Edward Sorel for finding a copy (sans dust jacket) for the Spill’s archives and equally indebted to Chris Wheeler for donating the dust jacket of his copy to the Spill’s archives.

The cover of the Album, by Julian De Miskey, was originally the New Yorker cover for the issue of April 2, 1932:

Here’s the only text appearing elsewhere on the dust jacket other than the cover and spine; it’s on the inside front flap.  The back cover is blank, as is the back inside flap.

 

 

 

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