Commentary
5:00 am
Mon May 5, 2014

New Yorker Cartoonists Pen Brilliant Memoirs

I have two cartoons clipped from the New Yorker displayed on my fridge door.

One is by Roz Chast, with the caption, “When Moms Dance”-- you know what we look like. And one is by Bob Mankoff, with the caption, “How about Never—is Never good for you?” Haven’t you ever wanted to say this to a persistent salesperson?

In one frame, Chast and Mankoff capture life’s telling moments with hilarity, brilliance and poignancy. Now, each has a new memoir for fans to relish.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast belongs in the canon of books to read after a parent has died, when one is reconciling the fraught and tender loving moments of the final years. Beginning with her childhood, Chast evokes the emotional journey of only-child life with her parents from her birth to their deaths, in episodes equally funny and sad.

In How About Never—Is Never Good for You?, Mankoff showcases his career as a cartoonist from life in college, where he majored in his hair, to his current position as the cartoon editor of the New Yorker—a position with a strong legacy. Did you know that in the beginning, the artists didn’t write their own captions? Instead staffers such as E.B. White filled in the context of the illustration.

Both Mankoff and Chast master the longer narrative and their stories are told with the same brilliant comic insight they use to engage us on a weekly basis.