At the Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet; “That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

At The Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet

 Back for her third trip to the Academy Awards, Liza Donnelly, is live-drawing for CBS News (she’s their Resident Cartoonist). You can follow her work tonight from the Red Carpet on Instagram (lizadonnelly), Twitter (@lizadonnelly), etc., etc.

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“That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

The Seventh New Yorker Album, published in 1935 by Random House, features Peter Arno’s March 23, 1935 New Yorker cover as its cover (the third solo album cover for Arno, with two more to follow).  As I wrote in my Arno biography, this cover was “a quiet link between the old Arno style and what would become the new.”

The front jacket flap copy informs us that this album is a two-fer since there was not a 1934 album, and goes on to say, “Consequently, this edition not only contains more pictures by more artists, but the publishers believe that it marks a new high standard in quality for the series.”

A remarkable album in the series for one reason: it has dueling forewords: The Undertakers Garland (described as “A Dissenting Foreword By Lewis Mumford ” and Fresh Flowers (described as “A Partial Defence By One Of The Editors” ) .

Lewis Mumford, at the time the magazine’s Art Critic, didn’t sugar-coat his take on The New Yorker‘s current cartoons, writing, in part:

“…the jokes seem more interesting than the drawings; or rather, even when the drawings are most adequate, they remain a mere instrument of the idea….The comedy has that special kind of madness that springs out of  a rough day at the office and three rapid Martinis. It is titillating, but a little frothy; it tickles me but remains peripheral; it has flavor but lacks salt.”

Wolcott Gibbs, who wrote the “partial defence” was in his fifth year of acting, in his words, “as a sort of liaison officer between the editorial staff of The New Yorker and the artists who draw its pictures,”  addressed Mr. Mumford’s issues one-by-one and concluded with this “defence” of Mr. Mumford’s “three rapid Martinis” charge:

“This apparently refers to the work of a few artists whose characters belong to no particular land or time and are held to the world only lightly, by the pull of tempered gravity. They are the wilder shadows in the same wonderland that Lewis Carroll first explored, and they are valuable to this collection as lesser examples of the same universal and timeless comedy. It is, of course, important that this sort of humor, operating in its own particular vacuum, be used judiciously…”

And so, here we have, just ten years into the New Yorker‘s existence, a very public debate over what a New Yorker cartoon should be, and should not be.  If there’s a constant in this funny world of the magazine’s cartoons — now closing in on their 100th birthday —  it is that the debate has never ceased.

Here’s the list of the contributing artists in the album. 

Most of the names will be familiar to long-time New Yorker readers, with the possible exception of Eric Monroe Ward,  who is a certified member of Ink Spill’s One Club. The One Club is limited to cartoonists who have been published once and only once in the New Yorker.  This icon   identifies them on the A-Z. 

  Mr. Ward’s only appearance was in the issue of July 14, 1934. As his work likely has little opportunity to shine, I’m showing his one drawing below:

*Note: this very same issue with Mr. Ward’s drawing also contains James Thurber’s classic, “What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?”  — for me personally, a most important cartoon — actually, the most important cartoon.  Nice to run across it again in its natural habitat. 

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For more on Lewis Mumford, check out Findings and Keepings: analects for an autobiography (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975).

And for more on Wolcott Gibbs, there is Thomas Vinciguerra’s wonderful Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Norton, 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Cast of Characters Cover: Thurber, St. Clair McKelway, Gibbs, Maloney & Parker; More from A Case For Pencils

Cast of CharactersIt being The New Yorker’s 90th anniversary, how fitting that the cover has been revealed for Thomas Vinciguerra’s Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and The Golden Age of The New Yorker.

Quite a crew gathered for a book party at the Algonquin Hotel in 1938: seated, left to right, Fritz Foord (who ran Foord’s Sanitarium in Kerhonkson, NY*), Wolcott Gibbs, Frank Case (owner of The Algonquin Hotel) and Dorothy Parker; standing, Alan Campbell (Ms. Parker’s husband), St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney and James Thurber.

*according to a Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney, Thurber heard that “O.Henry had used Foord’s as a drying-out place, and later psychically exhausted colleagues would periodically turn themselves in there, too.”

(W.W. Norton & Co. will publish Mr. Vinciguerra’s book in November of this year).

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Note: A Case For Pencils asked me to participate in a survey of tools of the trade.  You can see it here.

 

Books of Interest

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Following in the footsteps of The 40s: The Story of a Decade comes The 50s: The Story of a Decade (Both edited by Henry Finder, both published by Random House). No cover image available. The book will be out in September.   If the 50s is anything like the 40s, we can expect classic New Yorker fiction, nonfiction and assessments of the decade by contemporary New Yorker contributors.  Can’t wait for the other collections in what now appears to be a series, especially the The 20s and 30s.

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Coming in November by way of W.W. Norton & Company, is a must-read from  Thomas Vinciguerra:  Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Cover image not available yet).  The last we heard from Mr. Vinciguerra he brought us Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From The New Yorker. 

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Ink Spill will update information on these books as it becomes available

Did Arno Write Thurber?

Arno Workbooks a  A lot of material accumulates when you’ve been researching a subject for fifteen years. In my case, much of it was placed in a ramshackle assortment of black binders pictured here.  There was also a binder [not pictured] labeled “Next” that contained a very very  long checklist of things that needed looking into. The more I uncovered about Arno, the more I needed to discover. Over time, as the checklist dwindled, I was left with a handful (maybe two) of  unresolved questions. Some will likely never be resolved, but  I was certain that one question in particular could be answered by a visit to the Beinecke Library at Arno’s alma mater, Yale University (Arno didn’t graduate, but spent a busy freshman year there).

 

By visiting the Beinecke I could finally answer the question of whether Arno wrote James Thurber. Back in the late 1950s Thurber reached out to his fellow New Yorker contributors  while putting together his memoir, The Years With Ross. I’d discovered years ago that the Beinecke holds Thurber’s papers from that project, including a file located in Box 2 that contains all the correspondence between Thurber and his colleagues.  Did Arno write Thurber? I could wait to find out, and I did. Over the past few years I decided to save this last field trip for when my Arno biography had sold — a celebratory final run.

 

A couple of days ago, sitting a large table in the Beinecke’s well guarded reading room, I was handed Box 2.  The correspondence folder inside was so thick it took up two-thirds of the box (the other third contained a folder of fan mail to Thurber); clearly, this was going to take awhile — a fun while. After two hours, after reading letters from Thurber to E.B. White and Katharine White, and their letters in response, and rounds of letters between Thurber and St. Clair McKelway, William Shawn, and Wolcott Gibbs, etc., etc., I found a letter from Thurber to Charles Addams.  Thurber mentioned that he’d written Arno several times and never heard back.  I realized, then and there, I wasn’t going to find a letter from Arno in this mountain of correspondence.

 

It fit an Arno trait I’d discovered to be mostly true: as an adult, he wasn’t much of a letter writer. Heck, I’d even been forewarned some years ago when I found a great little privately printed book of biographies, Faces & Facts by a fellow named Willis Birchman. Birchman (a caricaturist more than a biographer) allowed one page per subject, plus a page for a self-portrait.  The first biography in the book is Arno’s, and it contains a sentence highly relevant to this blog post:

Arno never opens his mail.

Rea Irvin, Beyond The New Yorker

SnootHot WaterNeuroses

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rea Irvin, who gave us the impossibly perfect Eustace Tilley (the top-hatted dandy on the first issue of The New Yorker, February 21, 1925) was no budding flower when Harold Ross hired him to guide the  magazine’s art. Irvin was an established artist, with his cartoons and covers widely published (especially for the old Life magazine, where he also served as Art Editor). Once aboard The New Yorker, he continued working elsewhere, with a string of book illustrations to his credit.  Just for fun, I’ve shown a few.  (my thanks to the wonderful illustrator,Tom Bloom for the scan of Snoot…)

 

Snoot If You Must, Lucius Beebe; D. Appleton-Century Company, New York. 1943.

Hot Water, P.G. Wodehouse; P. F. Collier & Son Corporation, New York. 1932.

Bed of Neuroses, Wolcott Gibbs; The Bobbs-Merrill Company; Charter Books Edition edition. 1963

The Unsuccessful Elf, Paul Wing;  Rinehart & Company, New York. 1947.

 

 

 

And a few others illustrated by Mr. Irvin (no scans available at the moment):

The Nan Patterson Case, Newman Levy; Simon and Schuster, New York. 1959

Music With a Feather Duster, Elizabeth Mitchell; Little Brown & Company, Boston. 1941

The Ritz-Carletons, Fillmore Hyde; Macy- Masius, New York. 1927.

Alice in the Delighted States, Edward Hope; Lincoln MacVeagh /Dial Press, New York.  1928

 

Mr. Irvin’s Ink Spill “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z” entry:

Rea Irvin  (pictured above. Self portrait above from Meet the Artist) *Born, San Francisco, 1881; died in the Virgin Islands,1972. Irvin was the cover artist for the New Yorker’s first issue, February 21, 1925.  He was the magazine’s  first art editor, holding the position from 1925 until 1939 when James Geraghty assumed the title. Irvin became art director and remained in that position until William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross. Irvin’s last original work for the magazine was the magazine’s cover of July 12, 1958. The February 21, 1925 Eustace Tilley cover had been reproduced every year on the magazine’s anniversary until 1994, when R. Crumb’s Tilley-inspired cover appeared. Tilley has since reappeared, with other artists substituting from time-to-time.