The Water at Night

It's been too long since we've been able to offer you a new installment of Richard Gehr's great column, Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists. Today, he's back, with a profile of Zachary Kanin. This is an excerpt from Richard's new book collecting and expanding upon his column, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker's Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists, which will be available at bookstores tomorrow. Here's a bit from the middle of the Kanin piece:

A week before graduation, a human resources person from The New Yorker called the [Harvard] Lampoon office to inquire if anyone might be interested in becoming cartoon editor Robert Mankoff ’s assistant. "I answered the phone, so I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’" Kanin recalls. His interview with Mankoff consisted of the editor talking to him "for like an hour and a half, and then he was like, ‘I didn’t ask you any questions. Go write an essay.’" Kanin’s response included a section analyzing successful and unsuccessful drawings from the magazine’s cartoon archive.

At the time, the assistant art editor’s duties consisted of reading the mail and sorting out submissions from regular contributors. Kanin would then go through the hundreds of unsolicited submissions the magazine received each week and pick out anything showing promise amid the slush. Another large part of the gig involved sifting through the thousands of weekly Caption Contest entries, which took him two or three days. Other administrative duties included answering phone calls and e-mails, and he provided quality control for images and links on the magazine’s early website.

Kanin began submitting his own cartoons his second week at work. Technically, he’d mailed his first New Yorker submission to Tina Brown when he was but in second grade: "Hey, Tom," says one hunter to another while standing over Donald Duck lying in a pool of blood, "I think you'd better take a look at this one." His earlier rejection behind him, Kanin sold his first cartoon in September 2005. His timely rendition of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin Olive Oil," as its interior caption reads, consists of a half-empty uncorked bottle with flies buzzing about it. "It’s not one for the ages, but I was happy about it," he declares.

Mankoff offered his assistant a cartooning contract during the editor’s 2006 Christmas party. "I called my parents after the party, and I was really excited. My mom shook my dad awake and told him, ‘It’s like winning an election!’"

(As noted at the beginning of his column, I will be appearing with Richard at BookCourt in Brooklyn this Sunday afternoon, where Richard will give a presentation about his book and answer questions, and I will attempt not to accidentally short-circuit the sound system or knock down all the shelves or burn down the store.)

We also have Rob Kirby's review of Jesse Jacobs' Safari Honeymoon:

Safari Honeymoon is essentially a three-character adventure tale. The plot is simple: a newly married man and woman spend their honeymoon on safari in a mysterious jungle with a young man acting as their guide. The guide was first seen in Jacobs' gripping, compact eight-page mini from last year, Young Safari Guide, fighting to survive the attack of the ferocious spawn of a dreadful crawly creature. By the time he reappears in Honeymoon, the young man has become grimly expert and efficient at staying alive in the wild, knowing the habits and tricks of various parasitic, monstrous creatures infesting the jungle, creatures that forever await their chance to find new hosts, new sustenance.

The safari starts out idyllically enough, with the guide showing the couple myriad exotic sights and sounds of the jungle, waiting on them hand and foot. But he makes no bones about the ever-present danger all around them. After he pulls a hideous centipede-like creature out of the husband’s ear, he explains: "The creature will penetrate any orifice. Most likely it passed through your rectum while you slept.” He cautions them further: “Have you folks been wearing your butt plugs?” Clearly, one needs to be prepared for what this particular jungle has in store.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Renée French.

—Chris Mautner reviews a bunch of new books.

—And Ed Piskor visits his childhood home:

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