Let’s begin this very personal saunter through the funnies with a self-own in the form of this Bizarro.
Back in my Struggling Author days, I dwelt in the land of D-level rejection: My novel manuscript would often come back with a personal — rather than a pre-printed — letter, but never the kind that asked me to try again.
Rather, it was “While the writing is good and your characters engaging, we don’t feel …”
Then I read a first novel that was a Literary Guild selection, had enthusiastic blurbs from respected writers, and was much like my own: The writing was generally good, the characters were engaging, the whole thing was mediocre and not all that interesting.
It filled me with hope.
Until I did a little digging and found out that the author, a lad of approximately my age, had a father who was head of a major publishing house and a mother who was editor of a major literary magazine.
Hence the blurbs. Hence the publication at all.
At which point the curtains parted, because I had an answer to my question: “If you publish his novel, which is shit, why won’t you publish my novel, which is also shit?”
Well, here’s to Chatsworth Osbourne Jr. and all his little friends and all their indulgent parents.
BTW, the mediocre first novel of that well-connected young author was subsequently discovered to have been substantially plagiarized from a first novel by the son of a well-established writer, which didn’t kill the young sprat’s career but gave me a laff.
And as long as I’m celebrating past failures, I’ll admit to having lived by Willie’s method in my days as a single parent.
Of course, it’s all fun and games in Willie ‘n Ethel, but in real life, those new IOUs either come with very high interest rates or the potential for smashed knee caps. Or both.
I chose the 27% interest rates, which meant that, when I had a newspaper shot out from under me and ended up on the street, I could declare bankruptcy with a clear conscience, the kids grown and gone and my having long since repaid the actual money borrowed, with minimum monthly payments gobbling up 45% of my paycheck.
My only remaining guilt being all the years as a business writer that I’d passed along the company line, “If you get in trouble, contact us and we’ll work something out.”
I did. They offered to lower my payments by 0.3%. Not making that up.
I’d have met nicer lenders down at the Bada Bing! club.
So I pulled the rip cord, and lowered my minimum monthly payment to $0.00, and, a decade later, my credit score is 792 and my kneecaps are just fine.
That’s the financial advice I should have been passing along, and I suspect it’s relevant in the current pandemic.
And speaking of having had a newspaper shot out from under me, Rabbits Against Magic picks an old wound, or, really, two of them.
The little wound is that computer graphics let a lot of editors think they were artists. That nifty newspaper graphic he’s looking at was probably assembled by someone who couldn’t draw a bath.
But who thinks microwaving a frozen dinner makes you a chef.
There used to be whole cadres of artists who could put together great graphics on tight deadlines, but they were the first to go in the newsroom as computers offered editors the Super Power of generating graphs and inserting clip art.
The bigger wound is that, ever wanting to be cutting edge, editors and reporters did a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy in their breathless coverage of new media and everything groovy.
I nearly got into a fist fight in the newsroom with an editor who changed my use of “by post” to “by snail mail,” and then objected to my asking him not to insert hipster slang into my column.
Anyway, they’d have done better to address the changing world intelligently rather than simply gush over it until it was too late.
God, how I miss Richard Thompson. Great artist, dynamite cartoonist, good friend.
And always right.
A tip for somebody
This Duplex fits in with an idea I’ve had for someone who can draw.
It’s a seven mile drive to the park where the dog and I go each day, and we pass a lot of joggers and runners, some of them every day and some of them clearly in the One-and-Done category.
If I were a cartoonist — not a vague watercolor sketcher but someone like Roz Chast who combines cartooniness with emotional detail — I’d find a nice bench somewhere and compile drawings of those earnest joggers you know you’ll never, ever see again.
To do it right would take someone with a sense of “Bless your heart,” because it’s not funny so much as fascinating, a study in lives of quiet desperation driven, however temporarily, out into the public.
Juxtaposition of itself
Dog Eat Doug mixes whimsy and wisdom such that you never know which you’re going to get.
That’s not an idle observation: There aren’t enough strips that bring you back each day wondering what they’ll be up to now, and too many that repeat the same comforting tropes each morning.
That first one simply made me laugh, and laughter is a good thing.
The second reminded me of a family get-together years ago where, out the front window, I saw a toddler niece approaching my collie as he lay working on a bone.
The dog had snapped at me for messing with his bones, so I bolted to the door to find my niece toddling around waving the bone in the air and the dog pathetically saying, “Dad? A little help?”
Similarly, here’s my lion hunter, who has no history of living with kids but is a favorite with youngsters at the park. You can tell by his cape that he’s a superhero.
Finally, if I had my life to live over, I’d go hang out with Wallace the Brave, and when we were all grown up, I’d marry Amelia.
I like the cut of her jib.