Fairfield County (CT) Cartoonists; E.B. and Katharine White’s Home for Sale; Lots of Peter Arno on Pinterest; William Steig’s Connecticut Home For Sale

Fairfield County Connecticut’s Cartoonists

Here’s a really nice article in Vanity Fair, “When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of The World” written by Cullen Murphy, whose father drew “Prince Valiant” — a number of New Yorker artists show up (as you might expect as the county also had a large concentration of  cartoonists from the magazine…see this link for more on that).

 

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E.B. and Katharine White’s Home For Sale

From Town & Country, this article  — with photos — on the home previously owned by E.B. and Katharine White, now up for sale.

Why is this on Ink Spill, you might ask?  The White’s were major figures in the development of the New Yorker; both intersected with the magazine’s cartoons. One of Mr. White’s many duties at the New Yorker  was tinkering with cartoon captions. The most famous tinkering resulted in the Carl Rose drawing that appeared in the December 8, 1928 New Yorker:spinach

“It’s broccoli, dear.”

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

To read a little more about that particular caption, go here.

In the earliest decades of the New Yorker, Katharine White headed the fiction department. The cartoons fell under the fiction department’s umbrella until James Geraghty was appointed in 1939, when a stand alone art department was created.  In his book, The Art of The New Yorker: 1925-1995,  the magazine’s former Art Editor, Lee Lorenz wrote of Ms. White: “She remained a powerful voice in the selection of the magazine’s art even after she and her second husband, E. B. White, moved to Maine in the mid-thirties.”

Two recommended biographies: Scott Elledge’s E.B. White: A Biography (Norton, 1984)

and Linda Davis’s Onward and Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White (Harper & Row, 1987)

And for a wonderful read on that era of the New Yorker: Thomas Vinciguerra’s Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, And the Golden Age of The New Yorker (W.W. Norton & Co.,  2016)

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A lot of Peter Arno on Pinterest

Billed as “182 Best Peter Arno Images on Pinterest” — it doesn’t disappoint. The post even includes the dummy cover for my Arno biography.

Anyway, it’s fun to see so much Arno in one place. New Yorker cartoons, New Yorker covers, advertisements — all kinds of wonderful art by the master.

 

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William Steig’s Kent Connecticut Home For Sale

Fear not — Ink Spill is not pushing real estate.  It’s just coincidence (or as Curly of the Three Stooges would say, “a coinkydink”) that two homes by three major New Yorker figures are up for sale. This is William Steig’s home in Kent, Connecticut. Read all about the home here.

Mr. Steig’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

William Steig Born in Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 14, 1907, died in Boston, Mass., Oct. 3, 2003. In a New Yorker career that lasted well over half a century and a publishing history that contains more than a cart load of books, both children’s and otherwise, it’s impossible to sum up Steig’s influence here on Ink Spill. He was among the giants of the New Yorker cartoon world, along with James Thurber, Saul Steinberg, Charles Addams, Helen Hokinson and Peter Arno. Lee Lorenz’s World of William Steig (Artisan, 1998) is an excellent way to begin exploring Steig’s life and work. NYer work: 1930 -2003.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long Island Connection: Wolcott Gibbs, John O’Hara, and Charles Addams

Photo, left-right: John O’Hara, Elinor & Wolcott Gibbs, Charles Addams

Here are three stellar New Yorker contributors whose private lives intertwined with their professional lives — i.e., they were friends. Curiously, or maybe not so curiously, they all at one time  called Long Island home (Gibbs on Fire Island, O’Hara in Quogue, Addams in Westhampton Beach).  Here’s a quick look at their professional intersections (not including within the pages of The New Yorker itself).  Let’s begin with Charles Addams’s wonderful cover art for Brendan Gill’s 1975 Here At The New Yorker, in which all three of these fellows appear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top left, John O’Hara by Addams; top right: Wolcott Gibbs by Addams; bottom: Charles Addams by Addams

 

 

 

 

Gibbs wrote the Introduction to Addams’s 1947 collection, Addams and Evil. Here’s a portion of it:

“Altogether, if you have to have the dismal facts, I’m embarrassed to say that as far as I can tell he is just a hell of a nice guy, whose habits are probably a good deal less sinister than yours or, for that matter, even mine.”

 

Jonh O’Hara wrote the foreword to Addams’s 1950 collection, Monster Rally.  It reads, in part:

“Addams is a big man, about 6’1″ and around 195, a toxophilist who can handle a sixty-pound pull, but I don’t think he’d hurt a fly. I never have seen him lose his temper, although that is not to say he doesn’t get mad. He happens to be what is called easy-going, and has a decent contempt for the opinions of mankind.”

 

 

 

Addams provided the book jacket art for Gibbs on several occasions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on Wolcott Gibbs and his role in The New Yorker‘s Art Department, here’s an Ink Spill piece from a few years back.

For much much more on Gibbs I highly recommend Thomas Vinciguerra’s recent book, Cast Of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as for Charles Addams, there’s no better place to go than Linda Davis’s Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life (Random House, 2006)

 

 

For Addams’s work:  any of his cartoon collections will do just fine.

 

 

 

 

Mr. O’Hara has been the subject of a number of biographies. Here’s one: The Life of John O’Hara by Frank MacShane (E.P. Dutton, 1980).  There’s a mountain of work by Mr. O’Hara available and another mountain of information available online.

 

 

 

 

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Frank Modell Celebrated

ModellCartoonists mostly live solitary work lives. When they’ve finished a drawing, sit back and take a look at it, the feedback usually comes from within; then there’s the occasional  laugh from their spouse, friend, room mate or visitor. In the reverse, it’s also usually a solitary experience for someone looking at a cartoon in a magazine.  More often than not, the reaction is internal, and yes, sometimes a laugh, out loud.

It is always slightly jarring — at least for me — to sit in a crowd and hear the collective roar of laughter at cartoons projected on a screen. Such was the experience last night at an evening dedicated to celebrating the life and work of the great New Yorker cartoonist Frank Modell, who passed away in May at age 98.

The event was held a few doors east of  the 44th Street entrance to The New Yorker‘s former longtime address at 25 West 43rd Street (the building’s main lobby stretches from 43rd to 44th).  A plaque attached to the magazine’s one-time residence bears Frank’s name alongside a number of other heavy hitters: Harold Ross, E.B. White, James Thurber, Helen Hokinson, Peter Arno, Charles Addams, Katharine White and James Stevenson to name but a few.  Mr. Stevenson, Frank’s best friend, was in attendance last night, as were a number of other New Yorker colleagues, including Warren Miller, Mort Gerberg, Edward Sorel, Arnold Roth, Liza Donnelly, Charles “Chip” McGrath, Roger Angell,  Anne Hall Elser, Thomas Vinciguerra  and Linda Davis.

Remarks from Frank’s close friends, Flicker Hammond, Edgar Lansbury, Tom Meehan, and the long-time New Yorker writer, Kennedy Fraser were preceded by the presentation of a wonderful array of Frank’s work. Watching the drawings come up on the screen, with each caption read by Nancy Franklin (the New Yorker‘s former television critic), the laughter moved from the front of the room to the rear — a true wave of laughter.  Each drawing was a reminder of Frank’s ability to reach us with elegant drawings (it was noted that Frank’s long-time colleague and editor Lee Lorenz had said that Frank’s drawings “popped off the page”) topped off by a disarmingly precise caption:  nothing elaborate, nothing obtuse — just plain funny. Funny, and evergreen; that magic ingredient  that for many many years was the hallmark of New Yorker cartoons.

As each cartoon was presented I was also reminded of the friendliness of Frank’s work — work as friendly as the man himself. The people he drew were people we knew, or know, or are. His animals, whether mythical or not, are animals we feel an attachment to, whether it’s the unicorn riding a unicycle or a dog sleeping on a stuffed chair.  One of the drawings shown, “Boy, am I glad to see you.” was greeted with exceptionally riotous laughter.  I couldn’t help but think of Frank himself at that moment.  Boy, Frank, were we glad to see you.

modell-boy-am-i-glad-to-see-you

 

Author’s Progress Report: Thomas Vinciguerra on his Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker

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(above: foreground: Fritz Foord, Wolcott Gibbs, Frank Case (owner of the Algonquin Hotel) and Dorothy Parker. Standing, left to right: Alan Campbell, St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney and James Thurber.

 

An Ink Spill Exclusive:

Wolcott Gibbs and Co. in Upcoming Group Portrait

There’ve been a handful of New Yorker-centered books in recent years that have caused the house lights here to blink in excitement and anticipation.  The Linda Davis biography of Charles Addams, James Stevenson’s lovely book on Frank Modell, and Deirde Bair’s biography of Saul Steinberg.  Now another is added to that short list.  Last August, Publisher’s Weekly announced that W.W. Norton would be publishing Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker, by Thomas Vinciguerra in the spring of 2015, coinciding with the magazine’s 90th anniversary. Since then, little has been heard from Vinciguerra. But some delicate arm-twisting elicited an update and overview from the harried author.

 

“After months of plowing through The New Yorker records at the main branch of the New York Public Library, I can safely say that I should be able to wrap up my primary digging there by the end of the summer,” Vinciguerra says. “I’ll soon be off to a few other archival collections and conducting some interviews. But happily, I’ve been working on this book in one form or another for so long that much of my research is already done.”

Thereby hangs a tale. In the fall of 2005 Vinciguerra began investigating the life of Gibbs (1902-1958), who in more than 30 years at The New Yorker contributed countless comic sketches, parodies, profiles, short stories, “Talk” and “Comment” pieces and, notably, a pungent theatre column for approximately two decades. “I was appalled that this incredibly productive, versatile, indispensable contributor had been largely forgotten to history,” he recalls. “But for five years, nobody wanted a biography about him. Their attitude was, ‘Wolcott Gibbs? Who’s he?’ Then, in 2010 I got lucky. Bloomsbury had published A Reporter at Wit’s End, a collection of the journalism of Gibbs’s colleague and friend St. Clair McKelway, and I found they were looking to do a follow-up. So in 2011 they came out with my anthology Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From The New Yorker.

Backward Ran Sentences (its title derives from the famous 1936 Gibbs profile of Henry Luce, which spoofed many aspects of Time magazine, notably its weirdly inverted narrative structure) was a minor success and reawakened some interest in Gibbs. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post named it one of his best books of the year and even Time declaimed puckishly, “Forward run to this Wolcott Gibbs anthology.” Still, there was no interest in a full-length account of Gibbs’s life.

“Finally,” says Vinciguerra, “I got in touch with my old friend John Glusman, editor-in-chief at Norton. He suggested a book about Gibbs and his circle, shamelessly playing up The New Yorker angle and such giants as White and Thurber, to elicit as much interest as possible. Proceeding from the principle that half a loaf is better than you know what, I gratefully accepted.”

The volume will be neither a history of The New Yorker nor a conventional biography, but rather a group portrait of a certain collection of writers, editors, artists, entertainers and other personalities placed against the backdrop of the magazine, with Gibbs as a focal point. “The best comparison I can make is to Poets in Their Youth,” Vinciguerra says, “in which Eileen Simpson chronicled the lives and times of a whole bunch of interconnected persons—Robert Lowell, Jean Stafford, R.P. Blackmur, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell—with her husband, John Berryman, as a connecting link.”

It’s an unconventional approach, and Vinciguerra is finding that he has his work cut out for him. “This is unlike anything I’ve done before,” says the author, a founding editor of The Week magazine and a contributor to various sections of The New York Times for almost 20 years. “And I’m afraid that I’m going to disappoint some people. When Brendan Gill came out with a new edition of Here at The New Yorker, he explained that the book wasn’t an official account of life at the magazine; it was an account of his life at the magazine. Similarly, Cast of Characters will concern itself almost exclusively with Gibbs and the people who were part of his orbit.

“Fortunately, Gibbs wasn’t merely a writer but a major New Yorker editor as well. And unlike White and Thurber, with whom he was always mentioned in the same breath, he never formally left the staff. So he was absolutely an ongoing, sometimes omniscient, presence. At the same time, there were many big names that weren’t in his crowd. You’re not really going to see anything here about folks like Joe Mitchell, Jean Stafford, Dorothy Parker, Richard Rovere, Saul Steinberg, or S.J. Perelman. A.J. Liebling, Robert Benchley and Peter Arno, among others, will enter only fleetingly.

“At the same time, there will be new information about hitherto elusive figures who Gibbs did interact with, like St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney, Gus Lobrano, John Mosher, Hobie Weekes, and Freddie Packard. It goes without saying that along with White and Thurber, Harold Ross and Katharine White will loom large. So, too, will Gibbs’s close friends Charles Addams and John O’Hara, and his literary enemy Alexander Woollcott. And I’m paying special attention to the two worlds that Gibbs really made his own—Broadway and Fire Island.

“I’m tempted to spill even more, but I do have a deadline.”

 

Some links of interest:

From newyorker.com, October 11, 2011, an interview with Jon Michaud of The New Yorker: “Q&A: Thomas Vinciguerra on Wolcott Gibbs”

From The Committee Room, December 12, 2012, this interview:  “TCR Recommends — “Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs by Thomas Vinciguerra”

From The Washington Post, December 9, 2011, “Year-end Picks”

From Time, October 25, 2011, “Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker”

And…

Mr. Vinciguerra has been kind enough to pass along to this address examples of some of the treasure he has discovered while digging through the New Yorker’s archives in the New York Public Library.  From what I’ve been seeing, there is no doubt “Cast of Characters” will be in a league with “Genius in Disguise”  Thomas Kunkel’s spectacular biography of Harold Ross.  Come 2015, we are in for a treat.