Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Would Satan Do? By Pat Byrnes

Now, here's a complicated history: I bought this book in 2006, but apparently stuck it on a shelf and forgot it, because it doesn't show up in my "books read" lists. (Yes, I have master lists of that; I have lists and spreadsheets for nearly everything.) I believe my copy perished in the flood of 2011, but I got a copy of it through inter-library loan -- before I even bothered to check to see if I owned it now, or ever had in the past -- a few days ago and discovered that checkered past through a little self-googling. (It's OK to google yourself now and then, as long as you don't make a habit of it.)

And all that's good, because it's vaguely complicated (and yet pointless) stuff to fill up an initial paragraph of this post. That's important, since the book itself is a collection of single-panel cartoons -- the kind we call "New Yorker style" these days, because no one else still does them -- and there's never a lot to say about books like that.

What Would Satan Do? was the first collection of the cartoons of Pat Byrnes, from Abrams back in 2005. Byrnes has an interestingly convoluted backstory (see his site for that) and an amusing rounded, Diffee-esque art style. This book collects about 150 of those cartoons -- the pages aren't numbered, and I didn't count them -- mostly on, as the subtitle puts it, "right, wrong, and very, very wrong." So there are a lot of demons and scenes in hell, lots of business and government types contemplating doing something horrible, and a fair bit of more domestic scenes with people behaving badly.

I liked almost everything here: a few were laugh-out-loud (always rare) and the vast majority were at least chuckles. Byrnes isn't quite at John Callahan level with his idol-smashing, but this isn't a book to give to your easily-offended maiden aunt. (But she's no fun anyway.) The world needs more books of good single-panel cartoons, so I'm happy to know this exists. 

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