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CSotD: The Book Nook

Patrick Chappatte’s summary expulsion from the NYTimes’ International Edition drew a lot of attention last June.

For those who missed it, some cloth-eared wretch selected an editorial cartoon that, while essentially just accusing Trump of following Israeli leader Netanyahu like a blind man being led by a dog, contained some dubious imagery that, if it wasn’t intentionally Antisemitic, at least answered to the purpose.

Faced with an avalanche of complaints, the Times found itself forced to choose between either hiring someone competent or else eliminating a major category of political commentary and thereupon ceased publishing editorial cartoons. 

This meant canceling the contracts of Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song of Singapore, a pair of major international cartoonists, neither of whom had had anything to do with the syndicated cartoon that had touched off the kerfuffle.

Chappatte has since explained this as “preventive self-censorship,” and explains it again in a brief commentary in his new volume “This Is The End,” which gathers his cartoons from the beginning of the Trump Era to the NYTimes’ dropping of the curtain.

It’s a lovely book of 112 pages, which seems slim except that a book of really good cartoons, like a book of really good poems, should not be judged by thickness but by depth and if you flip through this quickly, you may be qualified for a staff position at the New York Times.

More thoughtful, insightful people will find it slower going, and I mean that in the good sense.

 

The book launches March 23 and you can pre-order it at Amazon, but, in light of the cartoon above, I’ll also point out that you can order it from your local bookstore and since you won’t get it before March 23 either way, why not? Just ask for ISBN-13: 978-1623719562.

And, concerning the above, I’d note that small, independent bookstores seem to be on the rebound, and the stores Amazon really took its toll on were the large corporate stores that had barged into major towns to do to small, independent bookstores what Rite-Aid and CVS had done to your corner pharmacy.

Which they did, but, while Amazon then wiped them out, quite a few little bookstores have since come out from under the wreckage, like the small mammals who survived that dinosaur-canceling meteor hit.

Meanwhile, Amazon doesn’t deliver groceries to those of us who live out amongst the trees and so I guess we’ll just have to continue to choose the head of lettuce we want instead of the one that Jeff Bezos decides to stick in our box.

Which pondering is emblematic of what I meant by these cartoons slowing you down and making you think.

 

One of the charming things about Chappatte’s work is that he manages to combine the more metaphorical nature of international cartooning with the immediacy of American style, though not always in the same panel.

This piece, for instance, is more international in tone, with the “punchline” not being a twist in words but in the shadow, where Liberty enlightening the world with her torch has become Trump wielding a nightstick.

 

Another positive thing not always, or even often, seen in collections of political cartoons is, as seen in this less closely cropped example, the original date of publication and an extremely brief explanation of the news being commented upon.

This is a more American style cartoon, in that it relies on a caption and, if it is not particularly humorous, it is more direct than metaphorical.

But Chappatte does rely on that caption and what is in his artwork: The date and context at the top does not attempt to explain or improve upon the cartoon, which stands on its own merits.

 

Ditto with this piece on the abandonment of the Kurds: The note at the top does not attempt to improve on the cartoon, which speaks for itself.

I don’t have an objection to written commentary, for instance, in Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front,” in which his audience for the book is different than his audience for the cartoons and some explanation is both necessary and welcome.

And there are a handful of cartoonists currently working whose cartoons can stand alone but also make good illustrations for well-considered columns.

But they are a rarity and most verbiage is not only wasted but, in most cases, takes the edge off the graphic work. In the above case, it’s good to have a brief reminder of what inspired the cartoon, but the cartoon itself stands alone, and solidly so.

By contrast this cartoon could run any time in the Trump administration:

When words are needed, Chappatte adds a caption within the confines of the graphic statement, which carries the full weight and easily so.

Having met him at the last AAEC convention, however, I would point out that he is not the type who speaks only through his graphics but is, in fact, a thoughtful, engaging and slyly humorous conversationalist, which makes his decision in this book to let his cartoons carry the burden all that more of a reason to get a copy.

Though if you insist on hearing his words, here’s a nice collection of things I wish I had said, along with some more good cartoons I couldn’t possibly have drawn:

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
January/19/2020
@ 10:04 am

Mauldin’s worth reading and re-reading and so on. Another top re-read is Walt Kelly’s collection Ten Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Years With Pogo, which has perfectly selected and curated cartoons accompanied by bridging text that’s hilarious in and of itself, as well as Kelly’s poems, each a polished jewel. But wait! There’s more! His essays at the chapter heads are proof that if he’d never drawn a cartoon or rhymed a poem, he should still be remembered as a crafter of words.

#2 Becky
January/19/2020
@ 12:18 pm

On another subject, I just noticed that at http://www.normfeuticartoons.com/ Norm Feuti announces the end of Retail. Must all good things come to an end?

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