If the title sounds familiar to you, it is because it derives from one of the author's cartoons, the most widely reprinted drawing in New Yorker history. Bob Mankoff's abundantly illustrated new book is as wry, witty, and entertaining as the cartoons that made him one of the most popular illustrators in the magazine's history, but it can hardly be called an autobiography, at least in the conventional sense. Mankoff is too free-spirited and generous not to share space with fellow cartoon artists. He also writes candidly about the entire process of successfully creating captioned pictures that pack a surprise twist or an extra punch.
How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoonsby Bob Mankoff
Memoir in cartoons by the longtime cartoon editor of The New Yorker
People tell Bob Mankoff that as the cartoon editor of The New Yorker he has the best job in the world. Never one to beat around the bush, he explains to us, in the opening of this singular, delightfully eccentric book, that because he is also a cartoonist at the magazine he/i>/b>/i>
Memoir in cartoons by the longtime cartoon editor of The New Yorker
People tell Bob Mankoff that as the cartoon editor of The New Yorker he has the best job in the world. Never one to beat around the bush, he explains to us, in the opening of this singular, delightfully eccentric book, that because he is also a cartoonist at the magazine he actually has two of the best jobs in the world. With the help of myriad images and his funniest, most beloved cartoons, he traces his love of the craft all the way back to his childhood, when he started doing funny drawings at the age of eight. After meeting his mother, we follow his unlikely stints as a high-school basketball star, draft dodger, and sociology grad student. Though Mankoff abandoned the study of psychology in the seventies to become a cartoonist, he recently realized that the field he abandoned could help him better understand the field he was in, and here he takes up the psychology of cartooning, analyzing why some cartoons make us laugh and others don't. He allows us into the hallowed halls of The New Yorker to show us the soup-to-nuts process of cartoon creation, giving us a detailed look not only at his own work, but that of the other talented cartoonists who keep us laughing week after week. For desert, he reveals the secrets to winning the magazine's caption contest. Throughout How About Never--Is Never Good for You?, we see his commitment to the motto "Anything worth saying is worth saying funny."
Mankoff’s (The Naked Cartoonist) memoir of life as the cartoon editor of the New Yorker, how he got there, and what he has seen and learned along the way, is a must-read for devotees of the magazine and is as funny as the best of his own work. The title is taken from what Mankoff calls “by far the most popular cartoon” he’s ever done, one that has become part of the American vernacular: a businessman talking into a telephone while looking at his appointment book, who says, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never—is never good for you?” Mankoff traces his career from his youth in New York City, when the fluent Yiddish spoken by his mother—a language “combining aggression, friendliness, and ambiguity, a basic recipe for humor”—heavily influenced him. The book generously displays New Yorker cartoons by Mankoff and others from earlier (Peter Arno, Charles Addams) and contemporary (Roz Chast and Bruce Eric Kaplan) generations of artists. In this way, How About Never serves up not only a mini-collection of great cartoons but also as a look at the shift in styles through the editorships of legendary William Shawn, Tina Brown, and current editor David Remnick. Mankoff also provides a very funny and insightful look at how to win the New Yorker cartoon caption contest. (Mar.)
“Lucid, illuminating, and encouraging.” The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating, forthright, and funny . . . Mankoff also writes with first-hand knowledge about the topic of laughter itself. He dares to ask the question, 'What makes something funny?', and answers it with intelligence, originality, and, of course, humor.” Roz Chast, cartoonist for The New Yorker
“Mankoff's deep understanding of humor, both its power and its practice, is the live wire that crackles through his new book. . . . How About Never is more than a memoir . . . it's also an enormous window into the mystery and alchemy behind the creation and selection of New Yorker cartoons.” The Washington Post
“How About Never is not just a charming memoir but also a charming grab bag of cartoon history, cartoon theory (nothing too woolly), and shop talk.” The New York Times Book Review
“Is Bob Mankoff mad, a genius, or a mad genius? This book does not answer that question, but you'll love it.” Andy Borowitz
“This is a generous book, giving abundant credit to both the older generation of cartoonists whom the young Mr. Mankoff hero worshiped to the new blood he has brought to the magazine during his tenure.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“More than anyone, Bob Mankoff has kept the New Yorker tradition in cartooning alive, while managing to oversee its renewal. He's also a very funny guy, with either a stipple-pen in his hand or a computer keyboard beneath his fingers. And, if that's not enough, he's one of the few funny guys around who actually has something sensible to say about what makes funny funny and he does so here.” Adam Gopnik
“Evidence that The New Yorker's cartoons can still unerringly reflect the texture of our times.” The Wall Street Journal
“Hilarious . . . A unique look at how the best cartoons in the world are created.” Christopher Guest
“Fascinating . . . Mankoff offers a number of tips on the ‘intelligent humor' that makes it into the New Yorker--and even how to better your odds in the weekly caption process . . . Those who aspire to a career drawing for the New Yorker will find this essential reading.” Kirkus
“How About Never serves up not only a mini-collection of great cartoons but also a look at the shift in styles through the editorships of legendary William Shawn, Tina Brown, and current editor David Remnick. Mankoff also provides a very funny and insightful look at how to win The New Yorker caption contest. . . A must read for devotees of the magazine.” Publishers Weekly
Part glib memoir and part cartoon anthology from the cartoon editor for the New Yorker. The most fascinating part takes readers inside the process of just how these cartoons are inspired, created and selected for publication. Mankoff (The Naked Cartoonist: Ways to Enhance Your Creativity, 2002) knows how tough it can be for an artist to achieve that career pinnacle and what an honor it is to be a regular contributor—particularly now that so many other publications that might have provided a similar market for cartoonists have either folded or no longer use the drawings. It's also a precarious position: "I think every cartoonist—indeed, everyone who's funny for money—fears that either they'll stop being funny or whoever decides what's funny will think they have. Little did I know that one day I'd be in the whoever role." Breezy text alternates with lots of cartoons—the author's own and others'—as he details how he went from years of being rejected by the New Yorker to his early acceptances to his current role as a gatekeeper. As Mankoff notes, the magazine makes that gate difficult to penetrate, with those under contract expected to deliver 10 or so cartoons every week so that maybe one might be selected. After starting from that prescreened 1,000 per week, he writes, "eventually I cull the pile down to fifty or so" and then take those to the weekly Wednesday meeting, where editor David Remnick will ultimately pass judgment on which 17 or so will be published. Mankoff offers a number of tips on the "intelligent humor" that makes it into the New Yorker—and even how to better your odds in the weekly caption process—but the one that trumps all others: "Make David Remnick laugh." Those who aspire to a career drawing for the New Yorker will find this essential reading—or just give up.
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Meet the Author
Bob Mankoff is the cartoon editor for The New Yorker. Before he succeeded Lee Lorenz as editor, Mankoff was a cartoonist for the magazine for twenty years. He founded the online Cartoon Bank, which has every cartoon since the magazine's founding. He is the author of the book The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way to Enhance Your Creativity.
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