A casual browse this morning through The New Yorker’s database under the heading “Cartoon” turned up a surprising entry: Donald Barthelme. Mr. Barthelme, a literary lion (Time magazine called him “America’s Weirdest Literary Genius”), was listed as having one cartoon in The New Yorker, a four page spread titled “The Dassaud Prize” in the issue of January 12, 1976 (one panel from the spread appears above). This one cartoon contribution qualifies the late Mr. Barthelme for entry to Ink Spill’s “One Club” ( a designation bestowed upon those who had but one cartoon in The New Yorker during the course of their career). Mr. Barthelme’s New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z entry, like all One Club members is in red.
These constructions or collages of word and/or vintage images, were not new to Barthelme — they appeared, if I’m not mistaken, upon the covers and within the body of several of his collections of fiction. I first saw examples of Barthelme’s art in his Greenwich Village apartment in the late 1970s (fresh out of college, I was lucky enough to have moved into an apartment just above his). One late afternoon he invited me in to see his drawings. After handing me a tumbler of scotch, he went to a closet and pulled out a pile of work. I was confused by what he was showing me (I suppose I expected to see cartoons) and could only mutter, Warhol-style, “These are great.” And they were.