The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.
We’ve come to expect, in these modern New Yorker times, that the cover will likely be a graphic comment on the biggest news of the week, and so it is with this new issue, featuring Chris Ware’s reflection on Hurricane Harvey. On a week like this it’s not really a surprise what the magazine’s cover will be about — the only question is, who will have the cover. Selfishly, I would love to see what other artists had submitted (perhaps the magazine will provide a slide show?).
And now on to the issue’s cartoons. First, of course, we must page through the Goings On About Town (GOAT) section. As a sidebar, I clearly recall looking through the first copies of The New Yorker I found when I began collecting older issues (by older, I mean issues from the magazine’s earliest decades). A read through GOAT in those issues was (and can still be) a form of time travel. For instance: in the After Theater Entertainment listed in the issue of November 15, 1930 there’s this:
Grill Neptune, Hotel Pierre, 5 Ave. at 61. (Regent 5901) –- A new and unusual room for supper dancing. For the more fastidious. Must dress.
Wow, Peter Arno’s Manhattan did exist, once.
This morning, with my mission quite clear, there’s no time to pause to see what’s happening at the Metropolitan Museum, and yet, sheepishly, I do stop at the full page ad for Zabar’s. For a brief moment, I wish I was a hundred feet from the entrance to Zabar’s instead of a hundred miles away.
Onward to the Talk of The Town — there’ll be a Spill “Posted Note” one day soon about Rea Irvin’s classic masthead — and to the first cartoon ( like last week’s issue, it doesn’t take very long to come upon: page 28). The cartoon is by newish-comer Jeremy Nguyen (recently a subject of Jane Mattimoe’s Case for Pencils blog). It opens up a whole new situation for cartoonists to mine: artists in cages. Mr. Nguyen’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine February 7, 2017.
Flipping through to the next cartoon I can’t help but notice a Personal History piece by Calvin Trillin (now in his 54th year of contributing to The New Yorker). Note to myself: read later! Several pages later is a John McNamee Garden of Eden drawing. Mr. McNamee’s first New Yorker work appeared in June of 2016, unless the magazine’s search function is mistaken. I’ve just realized Mr. McNamee is not on The Spill’s A-Z. My only excuse is that his work appeared in the year when more new cartoonists appeared (16) in The New Yorker than in any other year in modern times. Things were a little nutty then. [I just added his name. Again, my apologies to Mr. McNamee]. Here’s the Case For Pencils post on him and his tools of the trade.
Seven pages later we come upon an Amy Kurzweil drawing nicely situated in the upper right hand corner of the page. Ms. Kurzweil’s graphic memoir, Flying Couch (Black Balloon Publishing, 2016) was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. In this issue she visits one of the cartoonist’s tried-and-true situations: the boardroom. I’ve scurried around my memory library for sterling boardroom cartoons and two immediately came to mind, but I’ll mention just one, by the late great Charles Saxon, published May 25, 1981. “Of course, honesty is one of the better policies.” (also the title of a wonderful 1984 collection of his work).
Five pages later is another standard situation and character utilized by scores of cartoonists: the King on his throne (I’ve done way more than my share). The curtains In this drawing vaguely remind me of this classic scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. The cartoonist, Kaamran Hafeez, first published in The New Yorker in 2010 (you can see his work on the Cartoon Bank site here). For me, Mr. Hafeez’s cartoon (both the setting and the caption itself) is, in a way, a step-child to many drawn by master cartoonist, Dana Fradon over his long New Yorker career (Mr. Fradon, now in his 90s, is still drawing and occasionally posting the drawings on social media).
Four pages later is a well-placed Tom Chitty drawing of two businessmen. The anatomy here reminded me of those plastic cowboys from the 1950s or 1960s who were designed to sit on a plastic horse.
Mr. Chitty’s work began appearing in the magazine, October 13, 2014.
Three pages later, a Barbara Smaller back-to-school drawing sans Smaller people(!). Ms. Smaller’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine in 1996. (Ms. Smaller’s work can be found on the Cartoon Bank site). A few pages later is a Robert Leighton drawing that takes place at some sort of event that involves a dais. It’s fun when a cartoonist widens the scene and gives us a lot to look at. Mr. Leighton’s first drawing in the magazine: 2002. (See his work on the CB site).
Next up is Liana Finck drawing. I appreciate the Thurberesque framed piece Ms. Finck has placed on the wall and the electrical socket near the floor. Somewhere in my research for the Arno biography I ran across a cartoonist discussing how, in ancient times at the magazine, certain cartoonists were allowed or not allowed to show plugged-in lamps, depending on their abilities (or was it seniority?). Thanks to Thurber’s influence, I’ve always drawn sockets and plugged in my lamps — how else would they work? Ms. Finck’s work first appeared in February of 2013 (visit the Cartoon Bank site to see more).
After a page-and-a-half color politically-themed spread (called a”Sketchbook” on The Table of Contents) by the great Edward Sorel, we come to a Will McPhail drawing based on the ever popular Whac-A-Mole. I did not know, until this moment that Whac-A-Mole was invented in 1975. An unscientific survey of Whac-A-Moles images show most moles with their mouths closed. Mr. McPhail’s mole’s mouth is open, suggesting the mole is speaking. I suppose that makes sense as the seated fellow pictured is trying to understand the mole. How I wish I knew what the mole was saying. (Link here to Mr. McPhail’s website. His first New Yorker appearance was in 2014).
Immediately following Mr. McPhail’s mole drawing is a beautifully placed color piece by Roz Chast with a political twist. Ms. Chast’s work first appeared in the New Yorker in 1978. Five pages later is a full page Ed Steed piece about the eclipse. Responding to this piece just graphically, it seems like a page out of The National Lampoon (sort of a graphic mixture of Mark Marek‘s work with Randall Enos’s and Charles Rodrigues’s). Mr. Steed’s work first appeared in The New Yorker in March of 2013. You can see more here on the Cartoon Bank site.
Five pages later is an Avi Steinberg drawing incorporating boxing and music. My personal laugh-o-meter responds well to this drawing even though the “kid” looks like he’s well past a career in boxing. Mr. Steinberg’s work first appeared in the magazine in December of 2012. His work can be found on the CB site.
In the final cartoon of the issue, not counting the Cartoon Caption Contest work on the back page, is a David Sipress drawing (first New Yorker cartoon: 1998…see his work on the CB here). Mr. Sipress mashes tennis with Shakespeare. The caption immediately takes me away from the tennis court to the televised court of public opinion, to the McCarthy era and to William R. Murrow’s famous use of the line. None of that had anything to do with tennis, but then again — and here we return to Mr. Ware’s Hurricane Harvey cover — everything is political.
— See you next Monday.