Rube Goldberg is so renowned for his zany and splendidly overcomplicated "inventions" that his name has made it into dictionaries as an adjective. "Used for describing Any very complicated invention, machine, scheme, etc., laboriously contrived to perform a seemingly simple operation" is the entry in Webster's New World Dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the adjective means "accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply." The inventions appeared in newspapers every day from 1914 to 1964 as a single panel of drawings with an elaborate caption. Wolfe, a photojournalist who also holds patents for product design, presents a collection of Goldberg's inventions, comic strips, editorial cartoons, and sketches and provides a biography of Goldberg. The reader is easily lost in contemplation of such Goldbergian wonders as "Simple Way to Open an Egg without Dropping It in Your Lap," "Simple Orange-Squeezing Machine" (below) and "Easy Way for Tired Tourist to Enjoy Italian Art."
EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
About the Author
After a successful career as a photographer/writer, and then as an award-winning product designer, Maynard Frank Wolfe founded Rube Goldberg Inc. with the artist's heirs in 1994. As President of Rube Goldberg Inc.Born in Maine and raised in San Francisco, Wolfe now lives in New York.
I have a real problem with this book. Namely, I can't get on a New York bus or subway without having dozen strangers leaning over me to look at the cartoons, first with curiosity and then suddenly bursting into hysterical laughter. It's that kind of book. The name "Rube Goldberg:" is supposed to vaguely resemble a machine more complicated than it should be. But as I discovered here, the inventions are more than over-complicated.. They are zany, zappy, and have the weird quantum logic of a parallel universe existing in some mad scientist's crazy mind. Take a "modest mosquito-bite scratcher", which is modest if you have dogs, cannons and worms all hooked up in tandem. Or a "self-scrubbing bath brush", which is easy once you teach a monkey to play outfield and hook the monkey up with a millwheel, a jack-in-the-box and an organ grinder. But why go on? Each time I open the book, one of the hundreds and hundreds of insane worlds plays itself out with kind of an eerie reality. Maynard Frank Wolfe has written a decent down-to-earth biography of the real Rube Goldberg , who (obviously!) started his long life as an engineer. But the amazing and endless cartoons are simply the funniest and best things around. At first, I thought of Leonardo de Vinci on LSD. But the more realistic affinity is Gary Larson. Both Larson and Goldberg turn science on its head, with their own creations both defying and DEIFYING logic. Now if only he'd invented a way to make strangers on a subway train go away! Let them buy their OWN book!
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Rube Goldberg is justly famous for producing ingenious cartoons that show the most complicated ways imaginable to complete the most mundane of tasks. Any boomer, tweener, Gen-xer, teen, or kid who has played "Mousetrap" has witnessed a "Goldberg". This book reproduces his cartoons and reveals his three-fold genius - as a humorist, an artist, and a master mechanic. Today, the comic pages seem to be oriented either strictly towards children (Rugrats, et. al.), or adults (Doonebury, Dilbert and their kin); either type can be digested in seconds. Goldberg's genius was to produce a hilarious piece of work that could be enjoyed by all ages and actually made his audience think! Buy this book to revel in this master.
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Simon and Shuster and Amazon should be ashamed of themselves. I ordered this book in good faith and what I got was a Print On Demand book. For those folks that don't know, Print On Demand (POD) is when the book is printed on a machine when it's ordered. I'm a fan of this process -- when it's done right. Saves on warehousing, trucking, resources. But the copy I got has the artwork squashed in from the sides so it's tall and narrow. This is not how it was created by Rube Goldberg to be read. Plus, if you look closely, the lines of these fabulous cartoons are blurry. This is totally unacceptable.
On the back page of my copy, it states that the copy was printed on the date I ordered it, October 31, 2012. I guess that's what I get for ordering a book on Halloween -- it was a trick, instead of a treat.
I haven't seen the original first printing of the book, but I am pretty sure it wasn't published like this.
My issue is with the printing of the copy I received. The content of the book is a great collection, and well put together. It includes a terrific biography of Rube by Maynard Frank Wolfe that has many interesting illustrations and photos.
Which makes it even more shameful that the publisher would sell such a shoddy version -- shame!
UPDATE (11/20/12): I purchased a used copy of the original hardcover printing from 2000 (for $4 plus shipping -- as opposed to the $14.25 I paid for the "new" copy), and sure enough, it's 2 inches wider. The softcover print-on-demand (POD) copy I received when I purchased it "new" from Amazon measured 8.5 inches tall and only 8 inches wide. The hardback 2000 version I acquired measures 8.5 inches tall by 10 inches wide, so the artwork is properly presented, not distorted.Read more ›
Finding this book was a real treat.I haven't seen much of his work for a long time.Little wonder,since Rube died in 1970.Goldberg is a national treasure,not only for his Inventions,but also for many other art forms.He graduated as a Mining Engineer,did Vaudville,wrote songs and plays,was in Motion pictures,Newsreels,Radio,and TV.He also took up Sculpture at the age of 80 selling about 300 works to private collectors,galleries and museums.
He created his own artform and was a resounding success by his early 30's and remained so the rest of his life of 87 years.His cartooning skills reflected the early years of cartoons where the message was more important than the artwork;which really came into its own and exploded after WWII.That is,more like the stuff we saw from Mutt and Jeff by Bud Fisher and R F Outault's Yellow Kid.Generally speaking,after the war,the great change in artwork after WWII became the world of comics,such as Dick Tracy by Chester Gould,Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff and what we see today in Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau.
I can't remember if I ever saw any of Rube's cartoons in color and there is no use or mention of color in the book.While he still produced well after color became popular in comics and cartoons,the question remains unanswered.On his website there is a Machine Contest 2005 in color,but it is obviously not his work.Does anyone know if any of Rube's cartoons were printed in color?
Overall,this is an excellent book and does a good job on the life and work of an artist who entertained so many for so long.