From The Internet Writing Workshop, “This Day in Writing History” — a brief bio of James Thurber on the anniversary of his birth, this day in 1894.
From The Library of America, The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion , edited by Andy Borowitz, includes work by James Thurber, E.B. White, Dorothy Parker, Donald Barthelme, Veronica Geng, Tom Wolfe, Ian Frazier, Susan Orlean, Calvin Trillin, S.J. Perelman, Woody Allen, Peter De Vries, Philip Roth, and many many more.
Whither Whither, or After Sex What? Edited by Walter S. Hankel (1930, The Macaulay Co., NY)
I’ve always loved this book more for its cover than its content. It was published just five years after the birth of The New Yorker, and a year before Thurber’s first drawing appeared in the magazine (January of 1931). That isn’t to say the book’s publisher wasn’t aware of Thurber’s art. Whither Whither’s cover gently echoes the cover of E.B. White and James Thurber’s Is Sex Necessary? published to great success a year earlier. Wither Wither’s cover illustration was executed ever-so-slightly in the Thurber vein. The title’s type face is vaguely reminiscent of Is Sex Necessary? as is the use of the word “Sex” and the use of the title in the form of a question. To drive home the point: Thurber and White appear on the cover as contributors.
William Gropper, the illustrator, was no Johnny–come-lately to the illustration field. By 1930 he was a well established cartoonist and illustrator. If he was taking-off on Thurber’s style – at least for the cover piece — he couldn’t help but reveal the discipline of his art school roots. Gropper’s work inside the book is less Thurber-like, resembling instead the simpler loose yet determined style William Steig used later in his long career.
It’s interesting to note that twelve of the fourteen contributors to Whither Whither were New Yorker contributors, making this book a near de facto New Yorker collection.
While Is Sex Necessary? took off (it’s still in print some 80 plus years after its first printing), The New York Times reviewer whisked Whither Whither away, saying of its essays, “some are good, some are indifferent, and some are wearying.”
The two paperback books above were part of a series produced for our overseas service men and women during WWII. Measuring just five-and-half by four inches, they fit easily into a pocket, duffel bag or backpack.
The eagle-eyed observer will notice that Profiles From the New Yorker features E.B. White’s only New Yorker cover (published April 23, 1932). According to Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker, White came up with the cover while “sick abed.” Here’s a link to an article, “Oats for a Hoppocampus” in Time magazine, the week the White cover was published.
The New Yorker’s Baedeker, with its Peter Arno cover (originally published July 19, 1930) is not to be confused with the 1947 hardcover, Our Own Baedeker, with maps and illustrations by Carl Rose.
From StarNewsOnline, the blog Bookmarks, July 2, 2011: “The Story Behind ‘Charlotte’s Web'” — this review of a new book by Michael Sims, The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B.White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the birth of an American Classic (Walker & Co., June 2011). [ The cover of the book can be found at Barnes and Noble.com; Amazon.com provides the cover as well an inside look]
Those familiar with E.B. White’s history at The New Yorker will remember that he tinkered with cartoon captions and occasionally provided ideas for cartoons. His most famous contribution was the caption he re-worked for a Carl Rose drawing. Rose wrote in his 1946 collection One Dozen Roses that he submitted the drawing ( and it was bought) with the following caption:
“Mother, if I eat my spinach, may I have some chocolate pudding.”
“No dear, there isn’t any chocolate pudding today.’
“Well, then, the hell with the spinach.”
When the drawing was published December 8, 1928, Rose’s caption had been re-worked by White, and had become:
“It’s broccoli, dear.”
“I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”
Rose wrote that after the cartoon appeared:
“…the lit’r’y reviewers wrote of it, some at considerable length, and spinach became a similie for sham or fake and I think Irving Berlin wrote a song …using the line as a title.”
From On the Media, June 24, 2011, “The Secret Science ( Or is it Art?) Of Cartooning” this transcript of an interview with Bob Mankoff, The New Yorker’s Cartoon Editor.