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How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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The New York Times bestselling 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."
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“Lucid, illuminating, and encouraging . . . How About Never – Is Never Good for You? is not just a charming memoir but also a charming grab bag of cartoon history, cartoon theory (nothing too woolly) and shoptalk.” ―New York Times Book Review
“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
“Evidence that the New Yorker's cartoons can still unerringly reflect the texture of our times.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“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
“By mixing his snappy-banter writing with actual New Yorker cartoons, Mankoff offers fascinating insight into the professional trials and artistic struggles of a cartoonist--and his own method of defining what, precisely, makes a New Yorker cartoon.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Hilarious and insightful.” ―BookPage
“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
“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
“[Mankoff] delivers a witty and informative behind-the-scenes look at contemporary America media's most prominent home for great cartooning. Anyone who turns to the cartoons as soon as they get a new issue will devour this delightful book with relish.” ―Shelf Awareness
“Bob Mankoff's fascinating, forthright, and funny book provides an inside look at the nuts and bolts of New Yorker cartoons: how the artists come up with ideas, how the cartoons are selected, the workings of the famous Caption Contest, and much more. 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
“Is Bob Mankoff mad, a genius, or a mad genius? This book does not answer that question, but you'll love it.” ―Andy Borowitz
“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
“Hilarious... a unique look at how the best cartoons in the world are created.” ―Christopher Guest
- Publisher : Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (March 25, 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 080509590X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0805095906
- Item Weight : 2 pounds
- Dimensions : 8.42 x 1.18 x 10.26 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #326,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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maxime quae notant et designant
turpitudinem aliquam non turpiter.
An indecency decently put is the
Thing we laugh at hardest.
If you like to laugh – and think, this is the book for you.
Imagine two guys looking up at a big sign that says STOP AND THINK. One fellow says to the other: “Sorta makes you STOP AND THINK.” The reaction of these two fellows is exactly what the cartoons in The New Yorker Magazine make you do – cartoons that are better described as life drawings requiring you to think about life’s predicaments and ambiguities, facing the dangers and excitements of being alive.
Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor for The New Yorker (TNY), has written a memoir about his life in cartoons. The topics of TNY cartoons draw on humor from sex, love, death, parenting, marriage, family, cruelty, fear, jealousy, envy, hate, identity, character, conscience, desire, mourning and more --- the same topics that psychologists are up to their ears in.
Mankoff left psychology graduate school to seek his fortune in drawing cartoons. He started selling cartoons in 1977, and started working for TNY in 1980. He says he knows all about rejection, being booted out of psychology graduate school, and submitting thousands of cartoons to TNY before getting his first cartoon published.
He became the cartoon editor in 1997, about 20 years after selling his first cartoon. As editor of the magazine, he evaluates more than 500 cartoons every week, selecting about 10 - 15 for each magazine issue
Mankoff is most famous for creating the cartoon bank, and for the following best-selling cartoon:
An executive is at his desk, on the phone, and looking at his calendar says, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never?” Is never good for you?”
His title of his memoir is taken from what might be the most popular cartoon in the history of TNY. Mankoff remembers how he got the idea for this cartoon. He was trying to get on the phone with a friend who he wanted to see. That friend kept saying, “Can we meet this time? Could we do it that time?” And finally Mankoff says to his so-called friend, “How about never? Is never good for you?”
Mankoff traces this snotty retort back to his Queens and Bronx New York Jewish background. The Chapter 1 title is: “I’m Not Arguing, I’m Jewish.” During childhood, whenever he complained to his mother he was bored, she told him to bang his head against the wall, Mankoff quips. She taught him boredom was a luxury.
He describes his never-boring cartoon editor job as evaluating humor, a much different process from enjoying humor. He gives an example of a cartoon with 10 possible captions --- and this is the format of the cartoon caption contest that runs every week in TNY. The readers submit captions to a cartoon on the page, and the winners of the caption contest are printed. His editing job consists of picking cartoons with the best captions.
To evaluate cartoons, Mankoff reports that he is faced with the paradox of choice, which automatically brings the interference of the judgment process, short-circuiting the laugh response. So instead of laughing at the cartoon, he has to judge it.
In analyzing humor, Mankoff comments about what comics call “the magic of three.” He says you need a sequence for surprise to make a narrative funny.
Here is an example of a cartoon with the element of triplets in humor --- a one, two, and then boom.
A woman is saying, “I started my vegetarianism for moral reasons, then for health concerns, and now it’s just to annoy people.”
The cartoons in TNY, show the very widespread humor taking place in New York, the circus of the world. Humor makes fun of what’s in the public mind.
Here are two examples of cartoons about same-sex marriage:
A couple is looking at TV, and the guy is saying, “Gays and lesbians are getting married. Haven’t they suffered enough?”
A couple is in bed, and the guy is saying to the woman, “What’s your opinion of some-sex marriage?”
Mankoff appreciates humor that is benign, not speaking truth to power, but humor directed back at the people who are reading the magazine.
He describes a theory of humor he calls, “Just the Right Amount of Wrong.” He says this view emphasizes that humor is different in different contexts. He says that the mother’s milk of humor is anything that’s embarrassing, guilt- or anxiety-filled. Mankoff has learned that humor comes in almost endless varieties: humor based on reality, observational humor, silliness, and playful incongruity or absurdity.
An example of an absurd cartoon is:
It’s a cowboy at a desk. The person sitting in front of him is a cow, and he’s reading his resume. And the cowboy is saying, “Very impressive. I’d like to find 5,000 more like you.”
One cartoon, apparently not for everybody’s taste, shows a rodent in a cage, and then another picture of a rodent who hung himself. The caption is: “Discouraging data on the antidepressant.” Mankoff tells about readers who send in letters saying they don’t like cartoons where animals suffer. Mankoff’s response: “We use anesthetic ink.” A wise-guy he is.
Some people are hypersensitive to humor, and some people have little or no humor. I make it a rule never to use humor with people I don’t like ---- it is hard to keep my unconscious slips from showing.
Mankoff notes there have been many cartoons in TNY about the Grim Reaper because humor is an important way we cope with death, anxiety, suffering and illness.
An example of Grim Reaper humor:
The Grim Reaper is taking away her husband, and the wife is at the apartment door, and she is saying, “Relax, Harry. Change is good.”
Cartoons about marriage are another staple of TNY cartoons. Mankoff mentions he is happily married to his third wife (the magic of three). He says humor is essential in our attempts to understand our partners and for our partners to understand us.
He cites a cartoon on marriage:
A man is talking to a woman in the living room and he says, “Believe me, Janet, I consider you an important part of our marriage.
Mankoff focuses on the links between creativity and humor. He mentions Arthur Koestler’s book, “The Act of Creation,” in which he connects humor, science and art.
Life without a sense of humor is life without any sense of proportion or perspective.
Where laughter stops, so does common sense.
As William James noted, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
And I have, for several years, been a devoted--yes, every week--contributor to the cartoon contest. And like Roger Ebert (well, no not really since he did get one published) I have yet to win. But I now expect to. And here's why. To quote the author (see page 3), "And for the icing on the cake, I'm going to tell you how to win our famous caption contest." So having made that statement, I suspect a lot of us "losers" are going to be very, very angry (well, probably not since we all probably have warped sense of humor) at "a certain" cartoon editor!
The book is filled with cartoons that are used to tell the story. You'll learn a lot more about the magazine itself, about how cartoons are selected, about the different types of cartoons. And you'll do so all from the point of view of a Jew! I love what Jewish people write--at least usually I do. And this is ripe with his Jewish sensibility. Mostly inherited from his mother.
You can't go wrong with this. But if you are buying it only for your coffee table, then don't bother. And here's why: it needs to be read!
And I now intend to win that cartoon caption contest! I'd better.
But this one is the most brilliant yet! It's informative, funny, filled with juicy behind-the-scenes stories, and lots of cartoons. I had to immediately order another book by Mankoff after I finished this; I'm addicted. He's the BEST.
"Shortly after I became cartoon editor, David Mamet sent me this note: 'Dear Mr. Mankoff, Congratulations! I've taken the liberty of sending you a bunch of cartoons. Sincerely, David Mamet'
I sent a note back to him, thanking him and saying I had taken the liberty of sending him a play."
Mankoff admits he's being a smart-ass. He's also implying that he's no playwright. By the same token, he's not a great memoirist. Good, yes. Funny, yes. But as memoirs go, this one has huge time gaps, and quickly shifts gears from his life to interviews with other cartoonists, the dos and don'ts of cartooning, how to select and nurture cartoonists, etc. All fun, fascinating stuff--just not the stuff memoirs are made of.