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Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front Hardcover – February 17, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Historian DePastino (Citizen Hobo) eloquently memorializes cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who won fame as the leading spokesman for the American combat soldier during World War II, in this authoritative biography. Mauldin (1921–2003) grew up in Depression-era New Mexico in a dysfunctional family. After studying at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for one year, he joined the newly mobilized 45th Infantry Division of the Arizona National Guard. Mauldin then became the 45th Division News's cartoonist. Deployed to North Africa in 1943, Mauldin participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. In 1944, while on staff at the GI newspaper Stars and Stripes, Mauldin created his signature characters, the weary and disheveled infantrymen Willie and Joe. Willie and Joe became soldiers' heroes and anathema to brass such as Gen. George Patton, who threatened to throw Mauldin in jail for his characters' indolence. After the war, Mauldin published bestselling cartoon collections, worked briefly as an actor, ran unsuccessfully for Congress and ended his career with two Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning. Thoroughly researched and sprightly written, DePastino's balanced biography is a solid introduction to an American original. Classic Mauldin cartoons are an entertaining bonus. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Every critic who reviewed A Life Up Front welcomed this biography; apart from Mauldin’s own memoir, Back Home (1947), it is the first full-length biography of the man. Because DePastino was the first to provide such a work, critics were inclined to be forgiving even when they found failings, such as a focus on career over personal life. The book’s sympathetic subject and engaging illustrations couldn’t have hurt either. While a few reviewers suspected DePastino of hero worship, they also appreciated his thorough research and his candor in describing the difficult episodes of Mauldin’s later life. Given the usual glowing treatment of “The Greatest Generation” and “The Good War,” the overall assessment was that A Life Up Front is a respectful but balanced biography.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Two-thirds of this book (200 pages) is about Mauldin life through the end of WW II at age 24. The remaining 58 years are covered in the remaining one-third (100 pages). This period covers the McCarthy era, Vietnam, the second Pulitzer, his marriages and so forth. What we get is a précis of Mauldin's later life not a biography. No one will complain that there is too much detail! I had previously read Upfront and The Brass Ring on Mauldin's WW II career and didn't learn anything of substance about the earlier period that I didn't already know.
Author DePastino then shows us how Bill moved from a hell-raising kid living on a mountain in New Mexico to STARS AND STRIPES cartoonist and premier morale booster of World War II. DePastino shows us Mauldin's undaunted will to succeed. Prior to WWII, he labored at his craft, sending out thousands of cartoons with little chance he would ever get anything published. He borrowed money from his grandmother to go to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. We also see his mischievous side. He never did graduate from high school, thanks to a prank he pulled in a science class. He lit a cigarette and put it in the mouth of the class skeleton, too much for the teacher to overlook when he relit it and took a few drags.
Prior to WWII, Bill joined the Arizona National Guard. Four days later the guard was mobilized into the United States Army. He began his cartoonist career working part-time for the 45th Division News, going full-time when it was sent overseas. It was the hell-raiser kid who appealed to the soldiers. Bill was a sergeant in the Infantry before he was a cartoonist. There's a cartoon of Bill's characters Willie and Joe throwing tomatoes at the head of an officer as their unit enters a liberated city. This was one of the cartoons that would arouse the wrath of General George S. Patton, who wanted Bill fired. Thankfully other generals, Mark Clark among them, liked Bill's work enough to ask for signed originals.
When he returned from the war, Bill eventually went to work for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then the Chicago Sun-Times
as a political cartoonist where he took on such issues as segregation in the South and the House Un-American Activities Committee. His cartoon of Lincoln holding his head in his hands after the Kennedy assassination would become one of the most famous of the 20th Century. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice.
The book also examines Bill's personal life in elaborate detail. He was married three times, his second wife dying in a car accident after a massive stroke. There's an especially touching anecdote about how he reconciled with his first wife after fifty years apart.
As a writer I found Bill's work regimen especially impressive. For one thing he used a Polaroid camera to take pictures of himself in various poses. "Capturing precisely the curl of an arm, the twist of a face, or the wrinkles in an overcoat was an ongoing obsession." The man never stopped trying to get better, and should be remembered as an authentic American hero. Like Snoopy, let's all quaff a root beer with Bill Mauldin on Veteran's Day.