Saturday, January 27, 2007

Book-A-Day #195 (1/27): Give Up? by Whitney Darrow, Jr.

OK, this is going to look like another one of my cheat books -- and it is, in a way -- but it became today's book-a-day very naturally.

Our last pile of kids books were due back at the library today, so I chucked the Things in "the dark car" (remind me to explain that some time) and set off to the library. There, as usual, I was the one poking around and finding books (for them to read, I hope), while Thing 2 played educational computer games and Thing 1 read issues of Nintendo Power magazine.

I was trying to find some Garfield books, since they both love that strip right now. (Six to eight-year-old boys -- sounds about right, yes?) The computerized card catalog said a few books were on the shelves, but it lied to me -- lied! But looking for them got me right into the middle of the shelf or two of comics/graphic novels/whatever. I almost took out Epileptic for myself, but, as always when I pick it up, I felt a great urge not to read it, and so I put it back down. But I did find this book of New Yorker cartoons, and -- since I love those -- I took it.

Reading a 128-page book, where each page contains at most two gag cartoons with a single-line caption, does not take very long, so I poked through it at the library, at my mother's before and after dinner, and then once I got home. It was published in 1966 by Simon & Schuster, and every single cartoon in it originally appeared in The New Yorker.

Darrow is not generally considered one of the great New Yorker cartoonists, and this book shows why. It's pleasant and often funny, but it's very much of its time and milieu ('50s suburban America, middle-class and white as you can get). The Peter Arno-ish art is the best thing about the book; it's nicely loose and loopy -- not timeless, but more interestingly an artifact of its time than the writing is. There's a long parade of guys in suits and their frumpy wives, and the cartoons mostly take place in either offices or living rooms (with a smattering of doctors, lawyers, sales clerks, and beatniks) -- which is just a longer way of saying that they're middle-rank, mid-century New Yorker cartoons.

The copy I read had been rebound at some point (I think 1973), so scanning the cover wouldn't help anybody. So, instead, I scanned the first, title, cartoon.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

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