Flying For Thurber: Personal History

For a couple of reasons — fear and economics — but mostly fear,  I made it into my early 30s without ever getting on an airplane, without ever traveling anywhere outside of the New York Metro area (with one exception: a car ride to Montreal: pretty much a straight shot up and back on the New York Thruway).  But in December of 1986, a small article (In Parade perhaps?) caused me to get on an airplane for the very first time: James Thurber’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio was throwing him a 92nd birthday bash.

After the reading the article (shown above) I remember stepping away from my work desk and reading the clipping to my fiancee (and fellow New Yorker cartoonist) Liza Donnelly, who was working at her desk about twenty feet away. Her immediate response to the piece: “Let’s go!”   Mention Thurber in our household and life’s placed on pause; Thurber’s our cartoon god.  We made our way to the New Yorker and we made our way to each other through his work (our first date was to see a Thurber original up for auction — the drawing of the moose with loose antlers that appeared in The Pet Department).

  This birthday bash in Columbus, with 92 original Thurber drawings on display, was simply too good to pass up. Not only would we be able to see all of those originals, we’d visit the Thurber House, where he lived during his college years. The home, on 77 Jefferson Avenue, inspired some of his most famous short stories, including “The Night the Bed Fell”  — one of my very favorites. Other than Cornwall, Connecticut, where Thurber lived out his life, and The New Yorker itself, the Thurber house is basically Thurber Central.

We booked a room in The Great Southern Hotel in downtown Columbus — where Thurber’s drawings were displayed.  Bonus: it was also where Thurber’s mother and brother lived for some time.  We overcame the crimps in our dream trip:  my “problem” with flying, and Liza’s recently fractured sesamoid bone. She’d be on crutches in Ohio.  I like to think Thurber would’ve liked that we had dual issues to contend with.

I made the flying issue simple, willing myself to believe that getting to Thurberville was more important than the perceived risk (i.e., death).  And so we flew out west (Liza had flown many many times, so no biggie for her).  The trip was uneventful as I suspect most flights are. I do remember feeling woozy once we deplaned, as if my legs couldn’t support me.  I suppose I couldn’t believe we made it.  My first impression of Columbus was that it had the widest Main Street I’d ever seen in my life. I spent perhaps too much time wondering why it was so wide (and to this day I still wonder). Liza being on crutches was unfortunate as everything seemed like a long walk away.  We taxied everywhere. 

For us, staying in The Great Southern Hotel was like kids locked in a candy store.  Thurber’s drawings  weren’t isolated in a gallery — amazingly, they lined the hallway walls. The only Thurber original we’d seen previously (the one being auctioned on our first date) was small –no bigger than a sheet of typing paper. Here in Columbus, many were that size as well, but some were  enormous (Hunter, Princess, and Swain, according to the brochure, measures 89.1″ x  114.5″). Thurbers greeted us whenever we left our room, and whenever we returned. 

We soon made our way via taxi to The Thurber House, arriving before it opened for the day.  That allowed us time to take photos of each other on the steps. 

It was a strange feeling touring the home (visitors are allowed to roam freely). I’m guessing that thousands of visitors have tested the keys of Thurber’s typewriter, which (back then anyway) sat on a mantel. It’s irresistible (despite, if my memory is correct, the little sign requesting not to touch the typewriter).

Finally being someplace you’ve heard of and read about (even a fictionalized account) can be disappointing. Not here. Perhaps the Thurberness of our adult lives had prepared us for this immersion.

The flight was worth it.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that the second trip I ever took that involved flying was back to Columbus, seven years later to be part of an exhibition of cartoons at the Thurber House. Good Show! included Liza, Danny Shanahan, Roz Chast and myself.  We were all assigned rooms in Thurber’s House.  Liza and I got the attic.

 

— The Monday Tilley Watch will return next week. The latest issue of The New Yorker is a double issue.  Its contents were covered in last week’s Monday Tilley Watch.

 

 

 

   

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of July 30, 2018

The early release Barry Blitt Trump flat-on-his-face cover (above, right) was mentioned here last week, so onward we go to the brand new issue.  Fifteen cartoons in the issue, eighteen illustrations.  With five of those illustrations full page, I’d say the magazine is most definitely in a new age of illustration (the old age was during Tina Brown’s reign as editor. She brought illustration, including photographs, big-time into the magazine). The magazine had a golden age of cartoons that began in the late 1930s and roughly extended into the early 1950s. A new age of sorts (golden, platinum, silver — does it really matter?) began in the late 1960s, early 1970s and lasted several decades. I wouldn’t put a label on the age we’re in now because we’re in it (kind’ve a can’t see the forest for the trees thing).  

Three cartoons really stand out for me in this issue:

Kim Warp’s Dog Watching A Guy Grill Burgers Cartoon

I immediately saw a good bit of Jack Ziegler’s work in Ms. Warp’s wonderful cartoon.  The burgers, of course (see Mr. Ziegler’s classic collection: Hamburger Madness) as well as the situation of the guy grilling on the deck.  And then there’s the deck itself, with the deck boards so well delineated. Mr. Ziegler loved that kind of detail. The dog’s thought balloon also recalls Ziegler’s work as does the wording.  What’s so great is that while the drawing has its Ziegleresque elements and a Ziegleresque feel to it, it’s 1000% Warp. I asked Ms. Warp if her drawing was in any way Ziegler inspired and she replied in an email:

In some way it was inspired by Jack Ziegler’s food/BBQ cartoons as I loved his work and they are in my brain forever. I was thinking of our dog, Maggie, who always has an eye out for spills, and somehow the Ziegler vibe came through. I think it sold partly because of the word ‘bungle’ which they said they hadn’t seen in a while. It comes up in my life all the time.

Joe Dator’s “…rock-based content” Cartoon

Mr. Dator’s work continues to fascinate. You can just see how much he enjoys drawing his world. I especially like his attention to detail in this drawing: the lighting, the instruments…geez, it’s all clicking.

 Danny Shanahan’s Excellent Jack-and-the-Beanstalk Cartoon

Mr. Shanahan’s giants drawing is solid work, an evergreen. Seeing a drawing that works as well as this reminds me of what someone said about the difference between Fred Astaire’s and Gene Kelly’s dancing: with Kelly, you see the sweat.  In cartoonville, I’d rather not be distracted by seeing the sweat. With Shanahan, you don’t see the sweat. I asked Mr. Shanahan if there’s anything we should know about this drawing, and he replied via email:

No real interesting back story, other than that I was a bit disappointed when it wasn’t run fairly quickly after being purchased (the week of 6/28/2016!), because I thought that it might lose its topicality. No such luck- some gifts just keep on giving.
 

Of Further Interest

In this issue is a Talk piece by the magazine’s cartoon editor, Emma Allen, who went to a cartoonists lunch and spoke with the lunching cartoonists as well as “crasher” Gus Van Sant (his new movie is based on a memoir by the cartoonist, John Callahan). I’m searching my memory bank now to recall the last time a New Yorker cartoon editor showed up at a cartoonists lunch. It was a very very long time ago, perhaps as long ago as the James Geraghty years (he was the art editor from 1939- 1973).

Some paperwork: Elisabeth McNair‘s work debuts in this week’s New Yorker.  Ms. McNair is the 14th cartoonist to be brought in by Emma Allen since she took up the position of cartoon editor in May of 2017.

For the record, the 14 are (with their debut issue alongside their name):

1. Sharon Levy (July 10, 2017)

2. Joseph Dottini (October 16, 2017)

3. Jon Adams (October 16, 2017)

4. Sophia Wiedeman (October 16, 2017)

5. Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (November 20, 2017)

6. Emma Hunsinger (November 27, 2017)

7. Sophia Warren (November 27, 2017)

8. Maggie Mull  (December 11, 2017)

9. Mary Lawton (December 11, 2017)

10. Pia Guerra (December 18, 2017)

11. Julia Bernhard  (January 1, 2018)

12. Navied Mahdavian (February 26, 2018)

13. Bishakh Som (March 19, 2018)

14. Elisabeth McNair (July 30, 2018)

Rea Irvin’s Talk Masthead

Before this post wraps up, I’d like to bring in a guest, David Ochsner. Mr. Ochsner, the fellow behind A New Yorker State of Mind: Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker Magazine, has graciously allowed the Spill to run his findings about the changes to Rea Irvin’s Talk Of The Town masthead over the years. As regular visitors to the Monday Tilley Watch know, there’s a weekly nod to Mr. Irvin’s Talk masthead due to its having been dismayingly eighty-sixed in May of 2017 for a redrawn version by Christoph Niemann (his redraw appears all the way at the bottom right below — you can read about it here).

Here’s Mr. Ochsner:

The first change I noticed was six months after the magazine launched (Aug. 22, 1925), when the masthead lost some of its shading and some shadow structures were introduced in the foreground. A week later Woollcott was dropped from the masthead and replaced by Hugh Wiley. The following January the editors’ names were dropped altogether. On Jan. 30, 1926, the letters were enlarged and superimposed over the buildings, which rose up on the notched, curving line that Irvin introduced. Then 54+ years later, in 1980, the letters shifted to the right, the “K” rather than the “E” now superimposed over the tower (to accommodate the re-drawing or standardization of the Irvin font–most noticeable is the serif clipped from the “N”). 

— Til next week

 

Spinach, Part 2 with Shanahan, Steiner, and Weber

As anyone who follows cartoon art knows, nearly everything and anything is fair game, including other cartoons. The famous Carl Rose “spinach” cartoon from the December 8, 1928 New Yorker  (shown above) that was yesterday’s subject here (well, more precisely, its caption origin was the subject) spawned a number of later cartoons.  Danny Shanahan gets the credit for causing me to think about casting around the Cartoon Bank site, using search words/terms like “spinach”  “broccoli” and “the hell with it”  — here are three takes by three masters of the art of cartooning:

Danny Shanahan’s from the February 28, 2005 New Yorker:

Peter Steiner’s from the July 24, 2000 New Yorker:

 

Robert Weber’s take, the February 21, 1994 New Yorker:

 

 

Another Two Pages From the New Yorker Ency of Cartoons; Podcast of Interest: Liza Donnelly

Another Two Pages From the New Yorker Ency of Cartoons

Back on June 19th, The Spill had this to say about the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons:

Stylish packaging…can’t wait to see what more is inside. Especially curious to see how the two volumes incorporate the advertised 3000 cartoons (or “classic images” as the publisher calls them). Actually, since we now can see 3 classic images, curious to see how the other 2997 are incorporated. 

Well , the publisher, Blackdog & Leventhal, has just eeked out two more pages showing 4 more cartoons (by myself, Charles Barsotti, Danny Shanahan, and Gahan Wilson), These are, as you’ll see, under the “Clowns” heading (the encyclopedia is organized around subjects):

Alrighty then.  Now we’ve seen 7 of the 3000 images promised. Only 2,993 to go!

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Podcast of Interest: Liza Donnelly

While live-drawing in Dublin last week (I’ve shown a few of her Dublin drawings here), Liza Donnelly sat for an interview with Roisin Ingle of The Irish Times.

Link to the Irish Times podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Too Darn Hot; Fave Photos of the Day: Chast & Wertz…Shanahan, Toro & Ziegler

Here’s a Liza Donnelly classic cartoon from The New Yorker issue of August 7, 1995:

And a favorite Charles Addams cover:

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Fave Photos of the Day: Roz Chast & Julia Wertz…Shanahan, Toro & Ziegler

Julia Wertz (on the left) and Roz Chast appeared at The New York Public Library last Thursday to discuss their work. I love that Ms. Chast is looking at a projected childhood photo of herself.  (photo courtesy of Marcie Jacobs-Cole). 

******

And just last night up in Bennington, Vermont, Jessica Ziegler, the daughter of the late Jack Ziegler moderated a talk with Danny Shanahan and Tom Toro.  The photo below from an interesting article posted today by Mike Peterson on his Comic Strip of the Day. Mr. Shanahan is on the far left, Mr. Toro, center, and Ms. Ziegler far right.