A Hmmmmm About Spinach

The Monday Tilley Watch, which usually appears in this place at this time, will be back next Monday as we’re in the second half of the last New Yorker‘s double issue week (the issue dated July 9 & 16, 2018).  In its stead, this brief puzzlement:

A Hmmmm About Spinach

Above: Carl Rose, E.B. White, A Can of Spinach

 

In December of 2013 the Spill posted a piece about the evolution of the caption of one of the most famous New Yorker cartoons.  The piece was updated and reposted in January of this year.  Here’s a further update (following the short burst of asterisks **********) — this time there’s a curious twist:

E.B. White is remembered as author of one of the most popular cartoon captions of the magazine’s earlier days, but perhaps it might be more accurate to say he was co-author, having adapted the caption from the artist’s original submission. The published caption, as it appeared beneath Carl Rose’s drawing in the December 8, 1928 New Yorker:spinach

“It’s broccoli, dear.”

“I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

 

The original caption, below, as submitted by Rose himself provided the framework for White’s sterling re-working. Rose’s original caption:

“Mother, if I eat my spinach, may I have some chocolate pudding?”

“No, dear, there isn’t any chocolate pudding today.”

“Well, then, the hell with the spinach.”

***********

This morning while rereading Carl Rose’s New York Times obit (June 22, 1971), I was somewhat startled to see the quote from Mr. White included in the paragraph below (I’ve bolded it).  I’d read Mr. Rose’s obit before without this quote causing a scene here.  This is why I re-read what I’ve read, and then re-re-read:

“With the December, 1928, publication of the cartoon, “spinach” took on a new, inedible meaning as a slang synonym for the distasteful. E.B. White, the man who supplied the caption, recalled in a telephone interview yesterday: “The spinach drawing came in with a caption that he (Rose) had put on it — some entirely different thing.”

Here’s the Hmmmm part: Was Mr. White’s caption an entirely different thing?  I immediately went to Scott Elledge’s wonderful biography of Mr. White hoping for clarification and/or amplification. Curiously, Mr. Elledge glides quickly over the spinach drawing, saying only: 

Soon nearly every issue of The New Yorker carried ten or twelve of his [White’s]  newsbreaks, five or six of his paragraphs of “Notes and Comment,” and one or more cartoons whose captions he had written or rewritten (Mother to child at the dinner table: “It’s broccoli, dear.” Child to mother: “I say it’s spinach and I say to hell with it.”).

From Elledge I went to The Letters of E.B White (the revised edition, published in 2006). In a letter dated April 12, 1980, White says (in part):

“The spinach cartoon was not a collaboration in the strict sense of the word…one day a Carl Rose cartoon turned up on my desk for a fix. I didn’t think much of Rose’s caption, so I wrote an entirely new one…”

And after checking several other possible sources (Kunkels’s Ross biography for one), I finally came across a letter from Harold Ross citing the “spinach” drawing (it can be found in Kunkel’s Letters From The Editor: The New Yorker’s Harold Ross).  Here, in part is his letter to a Mr. Stark, dated June 5, 1931:

The dope on the “spinach” caption is this.  Sometime, not very often but occasionally, we get a caption in the office here for a picture, rather than use the artist’s caption.  This is because we insist on the artist putting the idea into the picture rather than into the wording…Carl Rose sent that drawing in and E.B. White saw it and wrote the caption we used in the picture…I didn’t think it was anything very hot. I went away to Florida and Mrs. Katharine Angell, who subsequently became Mrs. E.B. White, and who always insisted it was hilariously funny or something, printed it. It very shortly became a by-word much to my surprise.

I return to Carl Rose.  In his one and only collection One Dozen Roses: An Album of Words and Pictures, published in 1946, Rose devotes considerable space to talking about his famous drawing:

Obviously, Rose felt it necessary to let it be known that he had a part in the caption itself.  For without his original submitted captions that included the words subsequently used in the published caption:  “spinach” and “the hell with” Mr. White would’ve been faced with a drawing of a mother and little child sitting at a table, and nothing more. Could White have come up with the published caption without seeing Rose’s captions?

It seems fair that Mr. Rose receive some credit for the published caption (much as Yoko Ono was finally granted co-credit for John Lennon’s song, Imagine). Ordinarily, gagwriters receive no credit for their work (the Spill has covered this in previous posts. Here’s one).  But as Mr. White’s contribution to the drawing became public knowledge and his authorship of the published caption undeniable, Mr. Rose’s contribution to the published caption should be accepted as well. 

I leave you with this quote from One Dozen Roses. Mr. Rose, obviously proud of his skill as both writer and artist, writes:

I did not originate every idea in this book.  Of the 115 drawings in this collection, 92 are mine, mine!

 

 

 

 

 

A Spill Favorite Leftovers Cartoon…and a Bonus; A Trio of Non-New Yorker Cartoon Books of Interest; The Tilley Watch Online: Loper, Larson, Rosen, Flake, Gerberg, Warp, and Finck; John Lennon’s (New Yorker) Diaries

A Spill Favorite Leftovers Cartoon…and a Bonus

Yesterday I posted an evergreen Thanksgiving drawing by Bob Eckstein.  Today, an evergreen for the day after.  This Liza Donnelly drawing appeared in The New Yorker, November 26, 2007.

Ms. Donnelly has also provided the Spill with an unpublished cartoon that I particularly like.

 

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A Trio of non-New Yorker Related Books of Interest

Here are three titles I came across while scouring upcoming releases.  As far as I know none include a New Yorker contributor (but, hey, ya nevah know). 

Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons. What better artist to explore right now than Mr. Nast. This book by Fiona Deans Halloran is due February 1, 2018.  Published by The University of North Carolina Press.  A reprint — it was originally published in 2013.

Screwball: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny.  Authored by Paul C. Tumey, this looks to be a good addition to any comics library.  Due in September 2018.  Published by the Library of American Comics.

French Cartoon Art in the 1960s and 1970s. By Wendy Michallat. I plead guilty to knowing very little about modern-ish French cartoons/cartoonists. This title looks like a good place to start an education. Published by Leuven University Press.  Due: March 15, 2018

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…as you’d expect from this holiday week, a number of Thanksgiving-related works. Some chatty turkeys by Brendan Loper; a forgetful pie-maker by Liana Finck; a long line of pre-Thanksgiving Day shoppers & their thoughts by Maggie Larson; an Ellis Rosen pugilist T-Day; and politics, of course, courtesy of Mort Gerberg, and Kim Warp;  yesterday, Emily Flake advised how to keep the peace on the big day.  

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John Lennon’s (New Yorker) Diaries

Reading the November 21st New York Times piece “Man Arrested in Berlin Over John Lennon’s Stolen Diaries” I couldn’t help but notice the accompanying photograph shows that Mr. Lennon used two New Yorker Diaries to record his thoughts.  One from 1975, and the other, sadly, from 1980. Also of interest: on the 1975 diary, Eustace Tilley was covered-over with a photo of Mr. Lennon (the photo appeared on his Walls & Bridges album).

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 2, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

October already? Well yes — that’s the way it is on magazine covers.  Always one week ahead of reality (or if it’s a monthly, one month ahead of reality). The cover of this weeks issue, graphically speaking, reminded me of Gretchen Dow Simpson’s work (she did 58 covers for the New Yorker ). A number of Ms. Simpson’s  covers involved stairs, and all the wonderful shadows and angles associated with stairs. She did one New York City stoop cover as well (it was this cover that came to mind when I first saw the latest one by Kadir Nelson. Like Mr. Nelson’s,  Ms. Simpson’s cover has a somber cast of its own. 

I note while zooming though the Goings On About Town the ad for Spielberg (“Direct From the Heart”) — he looks a little like John Lennon there, specifically the photo of Mr. Lennon taken outside Mr. Lennon’s New York City Bank Street address.

Spielberg and Mr. Lennon (with stethoscope):

Okay, now in to the issue and onto the cartoons. The first, on page 20, is by Barbara Smaller, who began contributing to the New Yorker in 1996.  An excellent sizing of Ms. Smaller’s drawing — we can really see her work here. It’s funny, but with this kind of space, her work makes me think somewhat of the late great Robert Weber’s. Perhaps it’s the caption, or tone of the caption — very Webery (Webbery?). Google search Robert Weber New Yorker images and you’ll get an eyeful. I’d direct you to a Weber collection but, sigh, there never was one (some day I hope!).   

Four pages later is a mob drawing by relative newbie, Christian Lowe (first New Yorker appearance: February 2016).  Again, nice placement on the page. The caption forced me to visualize cinematic baseball bat moments involving mobsters.  Did Robert De Niro’s  Al Capone do a bat flip in that memorable scene from The Untouchables?  Nope. 

Four pages later a rapunzel drawing by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein).  Mr. Katzenstein (first New Yorker drawing: 2014) manages, in a two-part drawing no less, and using barely any of Rapunzel’s tower or hair, to succinctly convey an idea. Most cartoonists would show the whole tower and all the hair, as well as the sun, and Icarus. In this case, not necessary. J.A.K.’s drawing is immediately followed by a two page color spread by Roz Chast (her work began appearing in the magazine in 1978). An incident taken from a day in Ms. Chast’s life, involving a knife.  Three pages later a  drawing by  — I believe! — a brand new newbie, Jon Adams.  The drawing features a burning bed that is in no way connected to the 1984 Farrah Fawcett film, The Burning Bed.  

Two pages later, an Avi Steinberg drawing set in one of a cartoonist’s best friend scenarios: the doctor’s office.  I toyed with the idea that the caption should read “Just as I suspected. This thing makes everything louder” instead of the published “Just as I suspected. These things make everything louder” —  it’s the kind of brow furrowing decision-making that makes this cartoon biz so darn demanding.

Four pages later, the distinctive work of Lars Kenseth (first New Yorker cartoon: 2016).  Sharks! I wish we could see a Kenseth shark some day.  In this case the fins suffice. The fellow in the foreground is holding a small piece of wood.  I appreciate the care Mr. Kenseth has taken drawing that little piece of wood — the detail makes me laugh. 

After another four pages is a well placed Paul Noth drawing incorporating a wee bit of color.  Mr. Noth’s first drawing appeared in The New Yorker in 2004.  Like Mr. Steinberg’s doctor’s office, the wise man on the mountaintop is also a favorite of New Yorker cartoonists (I’ve done a number of both, and will continue to do more — they’re like potato chips: you can’t stop at one, or even a dozen).  On the very next page is a Farley Katz drawing.  Mr. Katz, like Mr. Kenseth, has a truly distinctive style.  You know it’s his work before you’ve had time to even wonder whose work it is (if that makes sense). There are certain cartoonists whose every drawing is akin to coming upon a blind curve — you have absolutely no idea what you are about to see. This is a very very good thing. In this latest drawing, there’s shopping action that (for me anyway) recalls the game show Supermarket Sweep. Again, Mr. Katz does not fail to deliver something unusual. 

A Tom Chitty drawing follows Mr. Katz. Talk about your distinctive styling. This is a three parter, with the third part using a party punch bowl, something not seen in New Yorker cartoons very often. If there’s been a punch bowl in recent times, I can’t recall it. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. The first Chitty New Yorker drawing appeared in 2014.  Three pages later, Emily Flake mashes pirates with ‘splaining. I’m curious as to where this  pirate get-together takes place. It looks kind of like a lodge, or a finished basement.  Ms. Flake’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 2008. On the very next page is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Another distinctive stylist with the added bonus of some of the best written captions the magazine publishes. They just flow.  Mr. Kaplan’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1991. 

Eight pages later, the final drawing of the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings) and it’s by newbie, Teresa Burns Parkhurst. Technically not Ms. Parkhurst’s first appearance in the magazine — she was part of last week’s caption contest.  Another cartoonist’s chestnut scenario: the boardroom.  This time the focus is on the always awkward situation of whether or not to tell someone they’ve some foreign body (food, usually) stuck on their face. 

And that is that. See you next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Lennon: “I was about 15 when I started Thurberizing the drawings.”

Back in December of 2013 Ink Spill ran a piece, “John Lennon & James Thurber: A Sunnier Connection.”  To celebrate John Lennon’s birthday, I’m re-posting that piece, albeit in slightly edited form.

 

thurber

Anyone familiar with John Lennon’s and James Thurber’s drawings can’t help but see some cross-pollination from Thurber to Lennon.  Lennon’s drawings, published in 1964’s In His Own Write immediately drew comparisons to Thurber’s work. According to a Lennon biographer, Ray Coleman, Lennon at first scoffed at the suggestion, telling a BBC interviewer in 1965, who brought up book reviewers mentioning Thurber and Edward Lear (among others) as influences on Lennon’s work, “I deny it because I’m ignorant of it.”

Not too many years later, in 1971, during an appearance by Yoko Ono and Lennon on The Dick Cavett Show, Cavett brought up the subject, saying, “You know, your drawings look a little like James Thurber’s.”

lennon-spaniard-in-the-works

In a funny moment as Lennon begins to respond to Cavett, Yoko Ono turns to Lennon and says, “His work does look a bit like yours, y’know, I think” to which Lennon replies, “Well he’s older than me, so he came first, so I look like him.”  And then he went on to say:

“I used to love his stuff when I was a kid. There were three people I was very keen on—Lewis Carroll, Thurber and an English drawer, or whatever you call him, called Ronald Searle. When I was about 11, I was turned on to those three. I think I was about 15 when I started Thurberizing the drawings.” (Another Lennon biographer, Philip Norman, credits Lennon’s Aunt Mimi with introducing her nephew to Thurber’s work).

[Top drawing, from  The Thurber Carnival.   Lower drawing from Lennon’s A Spaniard in The Works]

 Note: In His Own Write and the follow-up, A Spaniard in the Works are still in print.  You can see many of the drawings in those two books by Googling: John Lennon +drawings    (then select “Images”)

 To see the Yoko Ono & John Lennon Cavett moment, click here.  The discussion turns to Thurber at around the 6:05 mark.

John Lennon & James Thurber: A Sunnier Connection

book-johnlennonletters-splshimages

 

 

 

This coming Sunday, the 8th of December, marks two anniversaries of note,  one happy and the other not at all happy. The happier one: James Thurber was born that day in 1894. The unhappy anniversary: it was on that day in 1980 that the former Beatle, John Lennon was murdered in New York City.

Other than that unfortunate intersection on the calendar, there is a much sunnier connection between these two artists & writers. Lennon’s drawings, published in 1964’s In His Own Write immediately drew comparisons to Thurber’s work. According to a Lennon biographer, Ray Coleman, Lennon at first scoffed at the suggestion, telling a BBC interviewer in 1965, who brought up book reviewers mentioning Thurber and Edward Lear (among others) as influences on Lennon’s work, “I deny it because I’m ignorant of it.”

Not too many years later, in 1971, during an appearance by Yoko Ono and Lennon on The Dick Cavett Show, Cavett brought up the subject, saying, “You know, your drawings look a little like James Thurber’s.”

In a funny moment as Lennon begins to respond to Cavett, Yoko Ono turns to Lennon and says, “His work does look a bit like yours, y’know, I think” to which Lennon replies, “Well he’s older than me, so he came first, so I look like him.”  And then he went on to say:

“I used to love his stuff when I was a kid. There were three people I was very keen on—Lewis Carroll, Thurber and an English drawer, or whatever you call him, called Ronald Searle. When I was about 11, I was turned on to those three. I think I was about 15 when I started Thurberizing the drawings.” (Another Lennon biographer, Philip Norman, credits Lennon’s Aunt Mimi with introducing her nephew to Thurber’s work).

 

 Note: In His Own Write and the follow-up, A Spaniard in the Works are still in print.  You can see many of the drawings in those two books by Googling: “John Lennon” +drawings    (then select “Images”)

 To see the Yoko Ono & John Lennon Cavett moment, click here.  The discussion turns to Thurber at around the 6:05 mark.