The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of December 4, 2017

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

Back in February of 1996, the New Yorker celebrated its 71st anniversary with a “Special Women’s Issue.” Of the 23 cartoonists in the issue, 20 were men. The three women cartoonists were Victoria Roberts, Roz Chast, and Liza Donnelly. The cover, a take-off on Eustace Tilley, dubbed “Eustacia Tilley” was handled by a man, R.O. Blechman.

Now, just 21 years later, we have what I believe to be a first: this is the first issue of the New Yorker where the number of women artists outnumber the men (if anyone can provide an earlier issue where this was the case, please let me know). Of the 14 cartoonists contributing to this latest issue, 8 are women. The cover is by a woman as well. 

Before heading on to the cartoons and cartoonists, I note this modern Tilley take (below left)  on page 4, below the list of Contributors:

Poor Eustace!  He’s lost most of his facial features, and he seems to have gained a large strand of red licorice around his shoulders. Just as a reminder, I’ve placed Rea Irvin’s original Eustace alongside, lest we forget.

Now on to the business at hand (at eye?). The first cartoon is the not-too-often-seen -anymore people-in-line drawing.  Memorable people-in-line moments that come to mind: the line waiting for soup in Seinfeld’s  “Soup Nazi” episode, and this classic  Woody Allen scene. Mr. Vey’s caption has a faint Horton Hatches The Egg-ness about it. The drawing itself features an abundance of stanchions that immediately reminded me of this wonderful captionless cartoon by Bill Woodman that appeared in The New Yorker, May 8, 1978:  

Five pages later is Sofia Warren’s second-ever New Yorker drawing (her first appeared last week). Sometimes New Yorker drawings drive me to the closest dictionary (via a search box) to clarify some word or phrase I’ve felt I generally understood (but didn’t really). There are two drawings in this issue that caused me to seek further definition.  The use of “vortex”  in Ms. Warren’s drawing was the first. Webster‘s defines it as “something resembling a whirlpool”  — Aha! That’s in the ballpark of what I thought it meant. Ms. Warren, confronted the challenge of drawing a stand-alone whirlpool by giving  us an energetic mass somewhat resembling birds nest pasta. Works for me (both the vortex and the pasta).


Three pages later a father/son factory “Someday this will be all yours” drawing. Updated, I suppose, with a reference to offshore shell companies.  In tried and true trope fashion, Mr. Noth has shown us framed images of the company’s previous generations of owners. Next up, a mash-up drawing by newbie, Jon Adams. Here we have the Michelin Man (in a sash). I had to look that up as well. I didn’t picture him in a sash — apparently, he doesn’t always wear one. The rubbery fellow is mixed up with the famous Michelin Guide. Also apparently, the Michelin Man is a Michelin Guide food critic who has been escorted out of a restaurant by a chef. The restaurant apparently (yes, the third “apparently”) does not allow customers to wear sashes.  An awful lot of apparentlys here. 

Three pages later another newbie, but not as new as the previous newbie.  In this Teresa Burns Parkhurst drawing both of the folks seem to be speaking (both have open mouths). I suppose it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the talking.  The caption works either way.  I was surprised that this drawing and the last were so close together as they are graphically similar.

In another three pages we come to the always welcome art of Joe Dator.  I can’t quite explain how (or why?), but I feel Mr. Dator brings a Mad Magazine/National Lampoon-quality to the New Yorker.  And that, of course, is a very very good thing. 

Four pages later is a Roz Chast drawing — it’s the second drawing of the issue that took me to the search box for a clear definition.  I’ve heard “life hacks” for awhile now, but never took the half-second to look it up. Well, okay…got it now.

Four pages later a Tom Chitty police line-up drawing. Mr. Chitty went at this head-on which almost (almost) makes the fellows in the line-up look like they in a painting or photo on the wall. Maybe they are, but I don’t think so. I wondered why it was possibly a #7 missing from the line-up and not #6.  Anyway, funny idea. On the opposite page is a Liana Finck drawing — the style recognizable from across the room. Nice grizzly bear.

Twenty-one pages later (!) is a Liza Donnelly drawing of an off the grid little piggy. I can’t tell if he’s happy to be off the grid or not.  Has he made the right decision for him or herself?  Only the little piggy knows. Opposite Ms. Donnelly’s drawing is a Frank Cotham drawing that caused me to, as Bob Dylan once said (in the song “Belle Isle”), “stay for awhile.” I couldn’t decide who was “clinging to territory”— the dog or the guy. I still can’t decide.

Four pages later a drawing by another newbie, Maggie Larson (but this isn’t her first New Yorker drawing). Ms. Larson’s style here reminds me of someone we don’t hear about much anymore: Charles Sauers. Both Ms. Larson and Mr. Sauers work employs a particular perspective as well as simple line drawing.   Here’s a Sauers drawing from the August 20, 1984 New Yorker:

And the last drawing of the issue (not counting the work on the Caption Contest page) is by Kate Curtis. A really well drawn piece, solidly in the Charles Addams school of everything.

So that’s that for this week…other than mentioning my campaign to reinstate Rea Irvin’s Talk of the Town masthead.  Here’s Mr. Irvin’s original.  Perhaps someday it will get back to where it once belonged. 









Fave Book Cover (and Book) of the Week: Buzzi & Steinberg; A New Yorker State of Mind Looks at the Issue of August 25th 1928

Fave Book Cover (and Book) of the Week: Buzzi & Steinberg

Liza Donnelly recently traveled to the west coast of Italy  where she was presented with an award from the  Museo della Satira d della Caricatura. She returned home with a box of cartoon books published over there.  Among them was the book above, Aldo Buzzi & Saul Steinberg: Un’ Amicizia Tra Letteratura, Arte E Cibo (Credito Valtellinese, 2015)The book’s cover shows Steinberg at the wheel with Mr. Buzzi in the back seat.  The photo is dated 1960. It’s a terrific little book (7″ x 10″) packed with photos of Steinberg and company, as well as a lot of the master’s drawings, constructions, and illustrated letters. 

On first seeing the book, I couldn’t help but think of this photo of another iconic artist in a car. Those are Bob Dylan’s feet sticking out of the Rolls Royce.


New Yorker State of Mind/ Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker: the August 25th, 1928 New Yorker

I’m bowled over by the amount of effort put into every New Yorker State of Mind post.   Read it here

Working to “Terrible Music”




 Dylan Self Portrait


Some months back my wife poked her head in my work room, and said, “That is terrible music.”  The terrible music she was referring to:  Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait album. I was playing it as I worked (if I’m working in my office, music is playing).

I’ve always understood where the critics were coming from when they slammed Self Portrait.  It’s no Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited  or John Wesley Harding (but it is also no Down in the Groove or Knocked Out Loaded, my two contenders for Dylan’s lowest point) but I love it just the same, from its cover art — a self portrait (pictured above) — to the photos within (Dylan posing with a chicken!) to the loopy arrangements. Most people cite Dylan’s double-tracked vocal on his cover of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” as the supreme example of just how bad this album is. I find  Dylan’s  Simon & Garfunkel voices fascinating. 

Self Portrait  is perhaps the most reviled album in Dylan’s career (the now famous Greil Marcus review in Rolling Stone led off with “What is this shit?” –  a saltier version of my wife’s verbal review).  Despite the wrath heaped upon Self Portrait I fell hard for the album since it was released in 1970. Saving up to buy it, I had to make do with listening to it at a local box store where it was sacrificed to the stereo department as a demo to be played on turntables (my guess is that someone bought it then returned it).  Once I actually purchased the album, it became a favorite to work to as I drew my way through high school, college and beyond.  It’s one of those select albums that has the ability to spirit me away to the Cartoon Zone every morning (another album in the spiriting away category: the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request  — hmmm, yet another album the critics loved to hate).

Self Portrait is back in the news (and being re-raked over the coals) due to the imminent release of Another Self Portrait – the tenth in Dylan’s Bootleg series. This latest in the series features two discs of previously unreleased material from the Self Portrait sessions. Lost in every review I’ve seen of Another Self Portrait is mention of the 1973 Columbia Records release, Dylan, an album of material from the Self Portrait era – it’s usually referred to as Columbia Records’ revenge for Dylan changing labels (he left Columbia, briefly, for Geffen’s Asylum Records).  It came in for the same trashing as Self Portrait.  With its cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles”  as well as a dual nod to Elvis Presley with  covers of  “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “A Fool Such As I” – Dylan was, to me, just as good as and a welcome addition to the earlier Self Portrait.  The album was quickly forgotten and buried under the sea of coverage for the new Dylan material on Planet Waves released just three months afterDylan hit record stores.  Dylan became the forgotten album, never released in the United States on compact disc (I bought a European  import, released under the title, A Fool Such As I).

Why this particular phase of Dylan’s career became (and has remained) integral to my work I’ll never know.  I can always play Highway 61 Revisited and still feel that electric charge as the lead off track,  “Like A Rolling Stone” kicks in.  I’ve learned though that the album is too exciting, too distracting;  listening to it keeps me from working.   The surest path to the Cartoon Zone, for some forty-three years, has been the “terrible music” of Self Portrait.

























































































































































































































































































Birthday of Interest: Bob Dylan…a look at New Yorker Cartoons mentioning the Bard


In honor of his 72nd birthday, here are links to four New Yorker cartoons mentioning Bob Dylan (if you have access to the magazine’s archive, seek out Nat Hentoff’s great Profile of Dylan in the October 24, 1964 issue)

Mick Stevens’ drawing, (above) published December 10, 2007

Michael Shaw’s drawing, published October 25, 2010

John S. P. Walker’s drawing,  published June 24, 1991

Danny Shanahan’s drawing,  published March 9, 1998