How About Never - Is Never Good For You? by Bob Mankoff


Before I met the man who would become my husband, I had a
few dates with a guy I did not want a few more dates with. Whenever he called, I would say that I wasn’t
free. Finally one time when he demanded
to know just exactly when I would be free to go out, I blurted, "Never. I can never go out with you."

Remembering my outburst, I laughed when I read the title of
Bob Mankoff's book. A cartoonist as well
as the cartoon editor for the New Yorker for the last 17 years, Mankoff took
the title from the caption of one of his most famous drawings for the magazine. In that cartoon, a businessman who is on the
phone talking to someone with a terrible case of the "can't-get-the-hints" says, "No, Thursday’s out. How about never - is never
good for you?"

The ratio of cartoons to text in Mankoff’s book is about
70/30, similar to the narrative split between information about the New Yorker
and autobiography. The illustrations, of
course, are very funny, but so is the text, such as when it recounts Mankoff’s
boyhood as a Jerry Lewis wannabe, or when it details the efforts of Seinfeld’s Elaine
trying to crack the code of a New Yorker cartoon that she doesn't "get" (the
editor just "liked the kitty").

The author pays homage to numerous famous cartoonists at the
New Yorker, and his book also serves as a wonderful guide to anyone thinking about
a career in cartooning. Some
cartoonists, Mankoff says, are "head cartoonists" who have great ideas, while
others who are wonderful draftsmen he calls "hand cartoonists." The goal, of course, is to be both, as most
of the magazines' cartoonists are now. Mankoff reviews about 1000 submissions a week that come in by hand,
mail, e-mail, and fax. "Very few arrive
by sea these days,” he says. When will
the submissions end and the evolution of cartoons at the New Yorker end? "How about never? Never is good for me," Mankoff proposes.

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