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The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams, and Saul Steinberg Hardcover – June 15, 2005

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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  • The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams, and Saul Steinberg
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Delight, mixed with criticism, is apparent throughout.

(Nina C. Ayoub Chronicle of Higher Education)

A major study of a minor but vital mirror to our society.

(Library Journal)

Very intelligent... A good collection of notable cartoons.

(American Journalism)

Soundly argued, meticulously researched, gorgeously illustrated and utterly fun reading... writes with satisfying authority and pleasurably crisp prose. 'Academic' this book may be, but don't let that stop you from letting Topliss guide you through every conceivable aspect of all these brilliantly twisted artists and their larger contexts.

(New York Newsday)

Ambitious study of four of the New Yorker magazine's most notable cartoonists.

(American Historical Review)

If you like the New Yorker magazine, you'll love this book. If you aren't yet an aficionado, you probably will be by the time you've dipped into a chapter or two.

(International Journal of Comic Art)

Thorough, often brilliant, portraits of these artists.

(Modernism/Modernity)

The author gives us a look at art central to the first fifty years of The New Yorker, art that might at first seem peripheral to American culture of the time, but feels absolutely central after reading this insightful and perceptive study.

(Melus)

Superlative.

(James Wolcott's Blog, Vanity Fair)

From the Back Cover

For many readers of the New Yorker magazine, the drawings of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams, and Saul Steinberg epitomize its sophisticated wit and disarming humor. In The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams, and Saul Steinberg, Iain Topliss considers the work of each artist, traces its development, and recalls the cultural and social context in which it was created.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (June 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801880440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801880445
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,705,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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To take the insightful, culture-shaping cartoons of these four gentleman and produce an analysis as bloodless and boring as this must have taken Mr. Topliss many hours and drafts. I trudged through it because I spent the money to buy it, but I found the voice of the author so obvious and his opinions so strident that I actually grew angry at times. My recommendation is to skip this book and review your Arno, Steig, Addams and Steinberg cartoons instead. It's far more satisfying.
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Format: Hardcover
Somehow I always wind up first whenever I get a book that I'm sure dozens of other reviewers would be all over, like white on rice! This book, a serious and academic study of four New Yorker cartoonists, I would have thought would be a natural. Maybe people got turned off by the cover, a particularly grisly Charles Addams sketch in a drab, battleship gray color. And yet, the sketch itself, a crowded movie theater packed with weeping, intensely uncomfortable viewers, in the middle of which you see one of Addams' trademark characters watching whatever is happening on the screen (a death?) and chuckling happily--yes, the sketch itself encapsulates some of Topliss' thoughts about the position of spectatorship vis-a-vis the New Yorker artists he covers.

We see ourselves in Uncle Fester's grin, for we feel we too are different than the rest of the crowd, and that we have a privileged and superior position to what is being displayed on the screen. How these four artists managed to animate their own, very different sense of the "unique," is Topliss' subject.

He won't make you want to read much more about Peter Arno, the aristocratic playboy for whom comics were decidedly slumming. Of William Steig, Topliss shows us how first Karen Horney and then Wilhelm Reich animated his thinking about creativity and the act of drawing. His was a fascinating life, but again, I'm not so sure he was so utterly a genius at his art. Addams and Steinberg come off the best, although Topliss' "fame" angle on Steinberg made him sound a little like those celebrities who complain about the paparazzi even when they're courting press attention.

Topliss sees US culture, New Yorker division, through the distant, cold eyes of an Australian.
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