The Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of January 14, 2019; A Charles Addams Birthday Tribute

Two weeks in to the new year without a Trump cover! Anna Parini makes her cover debut (it’s titled “A New Leaf”; not for the last time, I wonder why we need titles for the covers.

Viewed online, various elements of the cover are animated. Snow blows, wind blows the woman’s hair and ruffles a few pages of her book. Silhouetted figures walk by in the background. It’s a lovely image but I found myself wondering if people really stand on city streets reading books on cold snowy windy wintry days.

The only image I can readily conjure up that incorporates a similar situation is of holiday carolers holding up their song books as they stand singing on street corners.

The Cartoons

I’m at a disadvantage this morning as the digital issue has yet to appear. That means we’ll dispense with counting illustrations as well as even beginning to think about how the cartoons are placed on the pages. A pity. Instead I’m relying on the slideshow of cartoons provided on newyorker.com.

The cartoonists in this issue: David Sipress, Will McPhail, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Pia Guerra, Zach Kanin, Roz Chast, Mike Twohy, P.C. Vey, Tom Cheney, Carolita Johnson, Sophia Warren, Frank Cotham, Trevor Spaulding, Danny Shanahan, Ben Schwartz, Liana Finck, Tom Toro.

Some thoughts on the cartoons:

Graphically, Frank Cotham’s drawing of the soldiers atop a castle tower is quite striking. As one who has studied the castle work of the master, Charles Addams, and as one who has drawn many a castle myself, I was taken by the dramatic angle Mr. Cotham has given us. Bravo!.

Of note is Danny Shanahan’s desert island drawing. It made me think about the resurgence of what once seemed a played-out scenario. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the recent past we’ve seen a number of desert island drawings, all clever as can be, and all proving that anything works in the cartoon universe if it works well. Mr. Shanahan’s works well (and lest we forget, a few years ago he had a cover of…a desert island). Here’s a quick look at some desert island cartoons courtesy of the BBC.

I really enjoyed Liana Finck’s damsel in distress tied to railroad tracks. Ms. Finck’s heavy use of black recalls Charles Barsotti’s expert use of contrast, and more recently, Seth Fleishman’s. I particularly like that she didn’t get involved in a detailed drawing of the tracks. She’s given us what looks like a ladder on the ground, and it works! Best of all: the eye contact she’s captured between the villain and the woman. Excellent.

Finally, here’s to Rea Irvin’s beautiful missing masthead, replaced in May of 2017. Read about it here, and see it below:

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A Charles Addams Birthday Tribute

To celebrate Charles Addams birthday, here’s a lovely piece by Steve Stoliar. My thanks to him for allowing it to appear here.

On this day in 1912, Charles Samuel Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey – and I think we’re all more than a little better off because of it. Chas Addams’ delightfully dark cartoons brightened up innumerable issues of ‘The New Yorker” from 1932 (!) until his death in 1988 – a more than fifty-five-year run. And, of course, his family of macabre relatives was the basis for “The Addams Family” TV series and later films (though the characters had no names before the TV series, which was produced by Groucho’s longtime friend, writer Nat Perrin).

I first met Addams in 1978 – on the same day I first met Dick Cavett – backstage at the PBS Cavett show, when the subject of the show was “New Yorker” cartoonists. Addams signed a copy of “Addams and Evil” that I “happened to have” brought along in the event our paths crossed.

About five years later, when I was living in New York and writing for Cavett at HBO, I spotted Chas striding in my direction up Sixth Avenue. Another path-crossing! I stopped him and asked, “Excuse me – aren’t you Charles Addams?” He smiled and replied, “Yes, but how did you recognize me? Most people think I’m Walter Matthau!” [see photo below] I tossed off some sort of compliment and off we went in our separate directions.

Not long thereafter, I picked up this delightful original ink-and-wash Chas Addams drawing – for a whopping $300 – because some guy with a bunch of vintage original “New Yorker” cartoons was remarrying and his wife didn’t like “all those old cartoons” on their walls. His loss; my gain. I wrote to Addams about the drawing c/o “The New Yorker” and received this lovely note in return. He is missed – but at least we have his prolific outpouring of drawings to remember him by.


Cartoon Collection Of Interest: The Ultimate Cartoon Book Of Book Cartoons

We’ll have to wait til April for it, but judging by the “Look Inside” available on Amazon, The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons will be well worth the wait. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, the anthology was edited by New Yorker cartoonist, Bob Eckstein.

Mr. Eckstein has packed the pages with New Yorker contributors such as Sam Gross (whose drawing graces the cover), Danny Shanahan, Liza Donnelly, Peter Steiner, Roz Chast, Arnie Levin, George Booth, David Borchart, Ed Steed, John O’Brien, and many more (the full list is below).

If you love cartoons, books and bookstores, this is most definitely the collection for you.

Complete List of Contributors:

Marisa Acocella, George Booth, David Borchart, Pat Byrnes, Roz Chast, Frank Cotham, Liza Donnelly, Nick Downes, Bob Eckstein, Liana Finck, Alex Gregory, Sam Gross, William Haefeli, Sid Harris, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Robert Leighton, Arnie Levin, Bob Mankoff, Michael Maslin, Paul Noth, John O’Brien, Danny Shanahan, Michael Shaw, Barbara Smaller, Ed Steed, Peter Steiner, Mick Stevens, Julia Suits, P.C. Vey, Kim Warp, Christopher Weyant, Jack Ziegler.

 

 

 

 

Book Of Interest: I Think, Therefore I Draw

Published a couple of weeks ago, I Think, Therefore I Draw: Understanding Philosophy Through Cartoons (Penguin) includes enough New Yorker cartoons (among a number of non-New Yorker cartoons) to mention here. The New Yorker cartoonists represented (in order of their appearance): Paul Noth, John McNamee, Tom Cheney, Danny Shanahan, P.C. Vey, David Sipress, George Booth, Avi Steinberg, Amy Hwang, Leo Cullum, Mort Gerberg, P.S. Mueller, John Klossner, Aaron Bacall, Sam Gross, “Bud” Handelsman, Lee Lorenz, Michael Maslin, Jack Ziegler, Edward Koren, Matt Diffee, Eric Lewis, Edward Frascino, and Charles Barsotti.

The authors have this (in part) to say in their introduction: “Here, then, is a collection of our favorite philosophical cartoons and our annotations about what they teach us about the Big Questions in philosophy.”

You can sample the text by going to the Amazon listing and clicking on the “Look inside” feature.

 

The Tilley Watch

Last week in this spot I noted and silently wondered about the latest issue of The New Yorker (dated October 29) barely touching on Halloween (other than a witches and broomstick drawing by Seth Fleishman).  This week’s issue, dated November 5, solves the mystery with its trick-or-treating Trumpian cover. I think we’ve now seen enough of him on the cover to expect a New Yorker Book of Trump Covers. I believe his first appearance was on the double issue of Dec. 28, 1992/Jan. 4, 1993. Artist: Robert Risko. 

New Yorker history aficionados will note that what’s inside that issue (produced during Tina Brown’s era as editor) is of great interest: a lengthy piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn: friends and colleagues recall the years with Shawn” — it’s essential reading, and includes photographs of Shawn taken by James Stevenson. 

Sidenote: the 1992/1993 issue contains the work of 35 cartoonists  It also contains an Artist’s Notebook by Benoit van Innes (full page, color), An Artist At Large spread by Philip Burke (4 1/4 pages, color), another Artist At Large, with Ronald Searle (a full page), an Artist’s Sketchbook by Gerald Scarfe (3 1/2 pages, color), a full page cartoon by Roz Chast and a color column by Danny Shanahan. Most of the single panel cartoons were placed in a space greater than a quarter page, with many running a half-page. There are 22 illustrations, with three full page. One of the things you’ll hear from colleagues who worked at The New Yorker during Tina Brown’s era (I was one of them) was that she knew how to throw a great party (and she did).  I’d like to expand that to: …and she knew how to throw a great graphic party

And now back to the future…

This new issue contains the work of 11 cartoonists (a bump up from last week’s ten) and 21 illustrations ( 6 1/2 pages of those are full pages). Of the 11 cartoons, one, by the wonderful Victoria Roberts, could be said to be nearly exclusively a Halloween drawing. There is another drawing — it features a ghost — but as it’s a telling scary stories around a campfire scenario, it could’ve been published at other times during the year. 

For the record, here are the contributing cartoonists in this issue:

I believe — but could well be mistaken — that the last on the list, Sarah Ransohoff, is making her New Yorker cartoonist debut in this issue. People who know better: please advise if this is incorrect. If this is correct, then Ms. Ransohoff is the 7th new cartoonist this year and the 19th cartoonist overall to be brought in under the cartoon editorship of Emma Allen since she took over in May of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying For Thurber: Personal History

For a couple of reasons — fear and economics — but mostly fear,  I made it into my early 30s without ever getting on an airplane, without ever traveling anywhere outside of the New York Metro area (with one exception: a car ride to Montreal: pretty much a straight shot up and back on the New York Thruway).  But in December of 1986, a small article (In Parade perhaps?) caused me to get on an airplane for the very first time: James Thurber’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio was throwing him a 92nd birthday bash.

After the reading the article (shown above) I remember stepping away from my work desk and reading the clipping to my fiancee (and fellow New Yorker cartoonist) Liza Donnelly, who was working at her desk about twenty feet away. Her immediate response to the piece: “Let’s go!”   Mention Thurber in our household and life’s placed on pause; Thurber’s our cartoon god.  We made our way to the New Yorker and we made our way to each other through his work (our first date was to see a Thurber original up for auction — the drawing of the moose with loose antlers that appeared in The Pet Department).

  This birthday bash in Columbus, with 92 original Thurber drawings on display, was simply too good to pass up. Not only would we be able to see all of those originals, we’d visit the Thurber House, where he lived during his college years. The home, on 77 Jefferson Avenue, inspired some of his most famous short stories, including “The Night the Bed Fell”  — one of my very favorites. Other than Cornwall, Connecticut, where Thurber lived out his life, and The New Yorker itself, the Thurber house is basically Thurber Central.

We booked a room in The Great Southern Hotel in downtown Columbus — where Thurber’s drawings were displayed.  Bonus: it was also where Thurber’s mother and brother lived for some time.  We overcame the crimps in our dream trip:  my “problem” with flying, and Liza’s recently fractured sesamoid bone. She’d be on crutches in Ohio.  I like to think Thurber would’ve liked that we had dual issues to contend with.

I made the flying issue simple, willing myself to believe that getting to Thurberville was more important than the perceived risk (i.e., death).  And so we flew out west (Liza had flown many many times, so no biggie for her).  The trip was uneventful as I suspect most flights are. I do remember feeling woozy once we deplaned, as if my legs couldn’t support me.  I suppose I couldn’t believe we made it.  My first impression of Columbus was that it had the widest Main Street I’d ever seen in my life. I spent perhaps too much time wondering why it was so wide (and to this day I still wonder). Liza being on crutches was unfortunate as everything seemed like a long walk away.  We taxied everywhere. 

For us, staying in The Great Southern Hotel was like kids locked in a candy store.  Thurber’s drawings  weren’t isolated in a gallery — amazingly, they lined the hallway walls. The only Thurber original we’d seen previously (the one being auctioned on our first date) was small –no bigger than a sheet of typing paper. Here in Columbus, many were that size as well, but some were  enormous (Hunter, Princess, and Swain, according to the brochure, measures 89.1″ x  114.5″). Thurbers greeted us whenever we left our room, and whenever we returned. 

We soon made our way via taxi to The Thurber House, arriving before it opened for the day.  That allowed us time to take photos of each other on the steps. 

It was a strange feeling touring the home (visitors are allowed to roam freely). I’m guessing that thousands of visitors have tested the keys of Thurber’s typewriter, which (back then anyway) sat on a mantel. It’s irresistible (despite, if my memory is correct, the little sign requesting not to touch the typewriter).

Finally being someplace you’ve heard of and read about (even a fictionalized account) can be disappointing. Not here. Perhaps the Thurberness of our adult lives had prepared us for this immersion.

The flight was worth it.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that the second trip I ever took that involved flying was back to Columbus, seven years later to be part of an exhibition of cartoons at the Thurber House. Good Show! included Liza, Danny Shanahan, Roz Chast and myself.  We were all assigned rooms in Thurber’s House.  Liza and I got the attic.

 

— The Monday Tilley Watch will return next week. The latest issue of The New Yorker is a double issue.  Its contents were covered in last week’s Monday Tilley Watch.