Jules Feiffer’s Unlearning

We are looking forward with pleasure to taking more than a moment’s time with Backing into Forward, the memoir from longtime Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, which publishes officially next month.  A passage chosen not quite at random:

Lincoln Steffens, the great muckraker, had taught me an unforgettable insight when I read his autobiography in my early twenties.  Steffens’s first job in journalism was as a cub reporter on a New York daily.  He was just back from a classical European education, thought he knew everything, and after a month on the job discovered that everything he thought he knew, everything he’d been taught, was wrong.  The assignment he took upon himself was to “unlearn.”

Unlearn.  That became my watchword.  My job was to unlearn for myself and pass it on to my readers.  Cut through the crap, theirs and ours, the powers that be and the powerless.

I started hearing from my readers.  And this is what I didn’t hear: I didn’t hear “God, you’re brilliant.  God, you’re funny.  God, how do you come up with those weird ideas?”  No, what I heard was, “How did you get that into print?  How did they let you get away with saying that?”

-From Backing into Forward