I Only Read It for the Cartoons

I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists Paperback – 7 Oct 2014
by Richard Gehr (Author)

Available for the first time to The New Yorker’s one million-plus readers: a volume dedicated to the individual careers of the magazine’s cartoon superstars.

Widely considered to be the pantheon of single-panel cartooning, The New Yorker cartoonists’ styles are richly varied, and their personal stories are surprising. For example, did you know that Arnie Levin is a seventy-three-year-old former Beatnik painter with a handlebar mustache and a back decorated by Japan’s foremost tattoo artists?

Gehr’s book features fascinating biographical profiles of such artists as Gahan Wilson, Sam Gross, Roz Chast, Lee Lorenz, and Edward Koren. Along with a dozen such profiles, Gehr provides a brief history of The New Yorker cartoon itself, touching on the lives and work of earlier illustrating wits, including Charles Addams, James Thurber, and William Steig.

Product details
Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Amazon Publishing (7 Oct. 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1477801154
ISBN-13: 978-1477801154
Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,136,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

“If you think you are funny and could do what New Yorker cartoonists do, you are wrong. To get a glimpse into the lives and working habits of these artists is a great gift. They are a rarified breed living in places like Connecticut and Westchester. They blend into the background, but they are the great philosophers of our time. Don’t try this at home.” —Maira Kalman, New Yorker cover artist, author of My Favorite Things and The Principles of Uncertainty

“Everyone who’s ever had their mind blown by a New Yorker cartoon has wondered about the twisted, perforated, skewed, and fizzy geniuses that create them. This book is our Rosetta Stone. It explains who these wonderful weirdos are, how they acquire their odd, delicious ideas, and how those ideas migrate fantastically to paper and then press. We are in enormous debt to Richard Gehr for tracking these artists down, for charming them, disarming them, and translating their lives and work into wise and elegant prose. Books like this should cost a fortune.” —David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us

“A great New Yorker cartoon goes deeper than it looks, and Richard Gehr’s masterful profiles of the magazine’s artists reveal the rich weirdness and intense craft behind their doodly bursts of wit.” —Douglas Wolk, author of Reading Comics

“[Gehr’s] knowledge of the history and culture of the magazine, and his incisive, revealing interviews, make for great reading…When Roz Chast, George Booth, Ed Koren, and all the rest read this book, I think they will be delighted—as will you.” —Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, from the foreword

“Gehr is sure to delight any New Yorker fan with this look at the pantheon of cartoonists… the book, brimming with New Yorker history and the idiosyncrasies of its contributors, is successful at what it sets out to do—provide a first-of-its-kind paean to some of the magazine’s most consistently popular contributors.” —Publishers Weekly

“There’s no purer distillation of a sense of humor than the single-panel gag cartoon, and most of the good ones appear in The New Yorker. This book profiles twelve of the magazine’s cartoonists, who prove to be as funny, odd, and sometimes enigmatic as their artifacts. Whether you are stranded on a desert island, free-associating on a psychiatrist’s couch, sitting on a park bench hearing out a winsome wino, or trying to stop the Grim Reaper from getting a foot in the door, this book will help you see the humor in your situation. It’ll also help you understand the arcane process by which life is converted into laffs.” —Christopher Miller, author of American Cornball and The Cardboard Universe

“Fans of the magazine and cartoon aficionados will enjoy Gehr’s entertaining writing.” —Library Journal

“This slender book is very much one the world needed and looked for.” —Buffalo News, Editor’s Choice

About the Author
Richard Gehr has been writing about music, books, film, television, and other aspects of popular culture for more than two decades. He has contributed to several books and written for Rolling Stone, Vibe, O, the New York Times Book Review, and Spin.

So THAT’S who they are!
By David Wineberg on 7 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback

There are difficult books, controversial books, and annoying books, but any book about New Yorker cartoonists has the automatic advantage and headstart of implying pure, noncontroversial and unquestionable pleasure. In this case, Richard Gehr’s profiles of a dozen current cartoonists puts faces and histories to the names at the bottom of the artwork. Gehr has been enormously fair, allocating space and covering the same territory with each of them. They are detailed to the point of listing what pens, inks and papers each works with, and when. About the only thing missing is if they are lefthanded or righthanded. I’m a little surprised he didn’t note that.

They are as ordinary and as wild as any mix of creatives. They have been slackers, draft avoiders, hippies and beatniks, and also suburban parents, multiple job holders and local volunteers. They have been at it since childhood, or come to it late. It was interesting to discover that a majority of today’s New Yorker cartoonists has at least one parent who was schoolteacher. And while most of them spent a lot of time in New York City, now they can and do live all over the country.

I gather there were copyright issues, as most of the cartoons are previously unpublished roughs. That’s a pity, since their cartoons are available in the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank, and this is one book that should be visually demonstrating what it talks about. Instead, we get long verbal descriptions of their first, their best and their favorite cartoons.

My own favorite is Gahan Wilson, who has been hiding in plain sight for decades. He is getting more recognition now, as you can see in my review of the new biopic documentary Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird which I thought should have been titled About Bloody Time.

There aren’t many revelations in I Only Read It For The Cartoons, except maybe for defining the odds of a cartoon being accepted. The chances are less than .075%. As magazines have folded, and online has no white space problem, the New Yorker is one of the last places you can even submit a cartoon. The result is thousands being submitted every week, including 5000 captions for the back page (and online) caption contest. So profiling the rare birds whose work is regularly accepted provides another level of insight – and enjoyment.

David Wineberg

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