How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in CartoonsHow About Never–Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons by Bob Mankoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i’ve been a Noo Yawka cartoon junkie for forever–there’s something so very weird and quirky about their cartoons, and my inner snooty person is extremely gratified when i “get” one of the more obscure or especially, the literary ones. the Noo Yawka definitely has its own stamp, perhaps especially in the cartoons it chooses.

so when this book came out i was a total sucker for it and knew i Had To Have It.

and it’s a romp, really. Mankoff did a real service here, letting all us hoi polloi have a peek at the dual processes of becoming a cartoonist, and becoming a Noo Yawka cartoonist. it’s an odd career choice, for sure, particularly when cartoon markets have shrunk to maybe one (the Noo Yawka). i tend to root for just about any underdog, and creative and particularly funny underdogs have all my support.

the book is a mix of text and cartoons (text predominating). the cartoons are chosen not just because they’re funny, but because they support a larger point Mankoff is making in the text–they’re very tightly meshed. in a way it’s a primer for how to become a cartoonist.

but i found myself becoming rather sad as i read the book (while laughing my head off, too)–the type of cartoon that will succeed with the Noo Yawka is actually rather limited as to subject and, for lack of a better word, viewpoint. not that the Noo Yawka is in some way blameworthy here–of course they have every good reason to stamp their publication with cartooning tailored to their audience. but i couldn’t help but think of all the voices we are not hearing in the cartoon world, because there’s only the Noo Yawka to buy them.

where are the cartoons from non-white, non-wealthy, non-hyper-educated, non-upper-class folk?

when i was a kid, history as taught in school was all about the battles, the wars, the victors, the winners. which meant it was pretty much about upper-class white men. i don’t think it’s that way any more–textbooks are very much more inclusive of people of color, women, union agitators, etc. and that’s a good thing, because history really should include all the voices of a time.

and history as we make it every week in our magazines and our newspapers and media should also take a shot at including all the voices of our time. and the Noo Yawka, as the last bastion of cartooning, simply doesn’t.

i’m not dissing on the Noo Yawka for this… i get that they have an audience, and that publishing cartoons about, say, black female gang members arguing over which polish makes their handguns shine better is simply not within their scope.

but reading this book did make me think about what happens to those voices. must be my week to muse on what’s not there…