Cat Cartoons a-plenty in the Big New Yorker Book of Cats

 

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Coming October 1st from Random House: The Big New Yorker Book of Cats ( you may remember that The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs was published almost exactly a year ago).  As you’d expect, the book boasts a huge number of cat themed cartoons and covers. Here’s a list of the cartoonists represented:

Charles Addams, Harry Bliss, George Booth, Roz Chast, Frank Cotham, Leo Cullum, Joe Dator, Eldon Dedini, Liza Donnelly, J.C. Duffy, Jules Feiffer, Ed Fisher, Ed Frascino, Alex Gregory, Sam Gross, William Hamilton, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Edward Koren, Arnie Levin, Lee Lorenz, Robert Mankoff, Henry Martin, Paul Noth, Donald Reilly, Mischa Richter, Victoria Roberts, Danny Shanahan, Bernard Schoenbaum, Edward Sorel, William Steig, Mick Stevens, Anthony Taber (represented by two multi-page spreads), Mike Twohy, Dean Vietor, Robert Weber, Christopher Weyant, Shannon Wheeler, Jack Ziegler

Cross-over cover artists (meaning those who have contributed both cartoons & covers to The New Yorker):  Charles Addams, Abe Birnbaum (his March 30, 1963 cover is of a lion), Ronald Searle, J.J. Sempe, Saul Steinberg, and Gahan Wilson

 

 

P.S. Mueller: Snatching Steinberg…and Thurber, Steig, Day, Soglow…

Continuing Ink Spill‘s series of New Yorker cartoonists talking about important cartoon connections in their lives is P.S. Mueller on discovering Steinberg’s work.  Mr. Mueller has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998.   “1958 Zorro Meets Steinberg” and photograph courtesy of Mr. Mueller.

 

1958 Zorro Meets Steinberg
In my adult mind I think of Saul Steinberg as an artist who forged his own passport out of hell and playfully went on from there. But his complicated life and tricky dance with identity meant nothing to the six or seven year-old Zorro impersonator who long ago became fascinated with his insanely simple and perfect line drawings.
I became a Steinberg thief immediately upon encountering his drawings in my father’s mile high stack of New Yorkers and proudly remain one to this day. When no one arrested me, I kept at it, snatching a bit of Thurber, a dash of Soglow, a pixilated grin from Steig, a blank look from Chon Day, and so on, until the lot of them came to inhabit me the way swallows inhabit a barn. The ghosts of Virgil Partch and Roger Price haunt this fluttery loft as well, but I digress.
How can it be that a few line drawings glimpsed at such an early age more or less charted an entire career path for a kid in Ohio? Was it something to do with the moment of discovery rather than the discovery itself? Or kismet? Nah, I don’t buy any part of the whole kismet thing. It had to be that Rumanian cipher with the paper bag over his head who tempted me to forge my own papers with stolen ink.
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See some of Steinberg’s work for The New Yorker here.
See P.S. Mueller’s New Yorker work here.
(Left:  P.S. Mueller around the time he first encountered the work of Saul Steinberg)

James Stevenson’s Secret Job at The New Yorker

 

 

 

 

 

If you pick up a copy of veteran New Yorker cartoonist, cover artist, and Talk of the Town contributor James Stevenson’s latest book, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, you’ll find a section wherein Mr. Stevenson recounts his “summer office boy” job at The New Yorker back in 1947, and mentions as well his beginnings at the magazine, nine years later, once he was hired full time.

In a  New York Times op-ed piece from January of 2011 (“New Yorker Confidential”) Stevenson recounted how James Geraghty, then The New Yorker’s Art Editor turned to him after the hiring handshake and said, “You must not tell anybody at the office or anywhere else what you do.” Only Geraghty and the magazine’s editor, William Shawn knew what he was up to all day long at the magazine. What he was up to was creating ideas for some of the established cartoonists.

The subject of idea men (or the less appealing term “gagmen”) is  of great interest to me –-  my unpublished biography of Peter Arno goes into the subject in detail as Arno, though prolific in his earliest years, came to rely more and more on outside help as the years wore on.  I plan on going into the subject here on Ink Spill sometime in the future.

Curious about the secrecy of Stevenson’s job, and many other things concerning his time at The New Yorker,  I called him up the other day to talk shop. Among other things, I learned that Stevenson was among the chosen (Frank Modell was another) to guide a nearly blind James Thurber around the office. According to Stevenson, this was the time-period “back when he [Thurber] was working on the soap opera series” [“Soapland” was a five part series running from the issue of May 15, 1948 thru July 24, 1948].   Here’s a snippet of our conversation:

 

Michael Maslin: Why all the secrecy?

James Stevenson: I have a very clear vision of meeting Geraghty. I was working for Life magazine –- and I’d been selling ideas [to the New Yorker] — and he said come and have a cup of coffee.  He described a career having an office at the New Yorker, and thinking up jokes, but I couldn’t tell anybody – it was a secret. And now it’s possible, but I doubt it, that he was just testing me. He liked to test people.

MM: The crowd of cartoonists that arrived at The New Yorker around the same time as you: Warren Miller, Lee Lorenz, etc.. seemed to arrive complete – you didn’t need to rely on idea men like so many of the previous generation; Helen Hokinson, Whitney Darrow, Jr.,  and  George Price to name a few.  Why was that?

JS: I think originally the  New Yorker artists –- a lot of them -– might’ve come thru the Art Student’s League or something like that and they had a background in  how to draw and how to do this and how to do that, and they would do handsome drawings but they might not be funny.

MM: I have a copy of the March 10, 1956, New Yorker in front of me – it contains your first cartoon published in The New Yorker.  Going through the list of cartoonists in that issue, it’s an amazing group: Alain, Steinberg, Steig, Perry Barlow, Barney Tobey, Hoff, Kovarsky, Richter, and on and on.  You must’ve rubbed elbows with many of them while you were there.

JS: Actually no, because I had this hidden career. I had an office for awhile across the hall from Geraghty. I didn’t much want to go into the [Art] office because pretty soon someone would ask questions. I was maybe more comfortable with people who were  Talk reporters because they wouldn’t ask me anything related to what I actually did.

MM: In your new book about Frank Modell, you mention bringing a package up to Peter Arno’s apartment on Park Avenue at around three in the afternoon and that he met you at the door still in his dressing gown.  You said that on the way home you decided you wanted to be Peter Arno.  Did you start drawing like him?

JS: No, I just liked the life style.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Roth

Philip Roth, who celebrates his 80th birthday today, was first published in The New Yorker the issue of March 14, 1959, with his story, “Defender of the Faith” causing an immediate stir (see the upcoming PBS American Masters profile “Philip Roth: Unmasked”  for, among so many other things,  Mr. Roth’s recollection of buying, opening up, reading and rereading his story in this particular issue — jokingly(?) saying he even read it “upside down”).

 

The issue featured a cover by the wonderful Abe Birnbaum, who contributed nine cartoons and nearly a hundred and fifty covers to The New Yorker.  His New York Times obit (June 20, 1966) contains this quote by Mr. Birnbaum: “Nothing is ugly. Everything is what it is.”

 

Brendan Gill reprinted the robin cover in his book,  Here At The New Yorker, writing of it:

 

“Nobody was satisfied with the ‘rough’ of this giant robin as it was first seen at the weekly art meeting. At the time, the background consisted merely of landscape. Geraghty [the New Yorker’s Art Editor from 1939 thru 1973] suggested the addition of birdwatchers. That simple change changed everything.”

 

When Philip Roth read, reread, and read his first New Yorker story upside down, he ran across cartoons by the following cartoonists — a roster that’s just about as good a snapshot of The New Yorker cartoon universe late 1950s as any:

William O’Brian, Frank Modell, Robert Kraus, Saul Steinberg, Everett Opie, Barney Tobey, William Steig, Ed Fisher, Robert Day (whose cartoon appeared on the first page of Roth’s story), James Stevenson, Otto Soglow, Syd Hoff, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Charles Saxon, Anatol Kovarsky, Dana Fradon, Eldon Dedini,  and Lee Lorenz