This morning I was thinking about Arnie Levin’s humble 5 1/4″ x 6″ hundred-and-twenty page paperback one-and-only cartoon collection, published in 1980 by Plume: I’ll Skip The Appetizer — I Ate The Flowers. If you don’t have a copy, well, try to find one (I see there aren’t any available on either AbeBooks, Amazon, or Ebay — heavens!). Selfishly I want a bigger more inclusive book from such a major presence in The New Yorker ‘s cartoonosphere. Mr. Levin has contributed over 700 cartoons and more than a score of covers. This book’s cartoons all appeared in The New Yorker, but that still leaves many many hundreds uncollected (as well as his covers — you can see many of those in the giant Complete Book Of Covers From The New Yorker, 1925-1989). In the intro to I’ll Skip…, Henry Martin wrote that “Arnie…finds humor in things I never knew were funny…and finds humor in things I knew were funny but Arnie makes funnier.”
Mr. Martin cites scarves as an example of the latter, and monkeys; I find that Mr. Levin’s work excels when he introduces wildlife (including domestic wildlife).
His bear with pockets, or bird testing the bird feeder water, his dogs doing an online search, the 8 part dog and cat drawing (“It’s only the wind”) are classic pieces. His dogs are especially wonderful. They seem to be a bridge between Thurber’s dogs and Booth’s.
There’s also a bit of Dean Vietor’s close-to-out-of-control-line quality in some of his drawings. The couple in their living room (on p.95) watching two fellows fighting on the tv, with the action carrying out into the room, knocking a curtain and a framed work askew, as well as toppling a vase, a tv tray’s bowl of popcorn, a lampshade, is a one heck of an example of a perfect caption-less cartoon. So yeah, seek out this book, and enjoy. And let’s hope that someone (a publisher to be exact) puts together an up-to-date Levin collection including his swell New Yorker covers.