Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #269: Think Good Thoughts About a Pussycat by George Booth

George Booth was exactly the age I am now in 1975, when his cartoon collection Think Good Thoughts About a Pussycat came out. By that point, he'd been drafted during WWII, served as a Marine in that war and Korea, had been on the staff of Leatherneck, and had a fifteen-year career as an art director before quitting to make cartoons and gaining fame in the pages of the New Yorker.

So I feel a little bit like a slacker here.

Booth had been illustrating children's books since at least 1964's  Never Tease a Weasel -- including the great Wacky Wednesday, from Theo LeSeig Dr. Seuss's script -- but I think this was his first book of cartoons to be published. It does have an introduction by his mother congratulating him on his achievement, which tends to reinforce that idea.

And, yes, having your mother write the introduction to your book of cartoons and ending with "Stay in there, George. I think you are going to make it." is deeply Boothian, and may start an explanation of where all of the various oddballs and their cats, dogs, musical instruments, bathtubs, potted plants, small appliances, and extension cords come from.

George Booth was always a cartoonist of the odd: his people were deeply rumpled at best and often with faces twisted by either uncanny joy or equally uncanny grumpery, and the scenes they were part of are full of bric-a-brac, junk, detritus, and various small creatures, sometimes recognizable as cats or dogs.

He also, even this far back, was fond of the exceptionally long caption, always phrased perfectly -- such as "When Jamie ate the stamps, I told him Mr. Postman would be very angry. And you are very angry, aren't you, Mr. Postman?" And his unique standard settings -- the man dictating from his bathtub, sometimes even to another person taking notes; the wife announcing something to her clearly tormented-writer husband; the room with far too many flowering plants in it -- are here as well, several times each.

There are people who don't like or understand single-panel cartoons. I hope, some day, there will be a cure for their devastating condition. For the rest of us, George Booth is a national treasure. This is where he started: if you can find it, it's a good place to start with Booth.

But any other book of Booth cartoons is a good place as well.

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