Wednesday, July 23, 2014
But here I am, in the middle of a year of Book-A-Day, and what I finished the other day is Booth Again!, a great 1989 collection of George Booth cartoons, almost all of them from the New Yorker. (There's a credit on the copyright page -- "Of the 97 drawings in this collection, 96 first appeared in The New Yorker" -- that makes me burn to know which is the one stray cartoon here.) Booth is still alive and working, thank goodness -- he's deep in his eighties now -- but this collection comes from his middle career, around twenty years ago.
Booth is a great cartoonist to read in collected form, since he has a whole cast of recurring characters and situations -- Basil and his flighty wife; Schisgall of the Pentagon and his explaining wife; Leon and his wife, who always strike me as aging hippies; and, of course, all of the quirky and odd dogs and cats running around them or staring, quizzically, out at the reader. In this collection, you'll run across each of them every few pages, like visiting old friends regularly.
Even for the New Yorker, Booth is fond of cartoons about a couple, but his couples, for all of their differences, run to one type: the man is taciturn and the woman is loquacious. Oh, Booth's men can chatter away, too -- there's a guy in his kitchen who appears a lot, some kind of aging crank with a lot of theories and obscure facts to explain to his dog and cat -- but they're no match for the Booth women they get paired up with.
I won't try to analyze too deeply as to why Booth is funny -- some of it is his drawing, since he has the knack of drawing funny, making pictures of things that look almost normal, all fat dogs and scrawny cats and scraggle-haired people and dumpy kitchens. The rest, as usual for a cartoon, is in the caption -- elliptical in the New Yorker style, often not clearly about anything in particular, full of standard phrases turned just a bit to make them that much more interesting.
This book also has the quintessential Booth cartoon -- come to think of it, this is probably the one that's not from The New Yorker -- the two-page multi-panel extravaganza "Ip Gissa Gul." I won't say any more. Booth is a treasure, and needs to be discovered fresh.
Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index