The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker - ed. Robert Mankoff

This massive book has over six hundred pages of New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to the present. Each decade is introduced with an essay that attempts to encapsulate that period's zeitgeist, as represented by the cartoons. In addition, sprinkled throughout the book are short essays about specific cartoonists or subjects with examples. It's a bit like The Complete Far Side, but with more variety. The book itself is smaller than the two-volume Far Side, but the bonus is that it comes with two CDs with "ALL 68,647 CARTOONS ever published in the magazine," as the cover boldly proclaims.

I've read the book cover to cover (which has just over two thousand cartoons in it), though I haven't actually started in on the CDs yet. It was a real delight to sit down and read through a few decades, and to see the way cartoons have changed, and even to see how some cartoonists honed their styles as time went on. Everything shifts from the past to the present: subject matter, types of gags, attitudes, fashion ... but through it all, there's the wonderful slightly-askew way the cartoonists manage to look at the world.

The only thing I didn't like was the way the decades were organized. Instead of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, etc., we had 1925-1934, 1935-1944, and so on. Of course, it made the numbering work out since the New Yorker began in 1925 and it's now 2004, but it seemed a strange way to talk about a "decade" and didn't quite line up with the way we typically think about time. But, that's a minor complaint, and I'd be quite willing to overlook that if you decided to buy me this book for Christmas.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 31, 2004