New Yorkistan

A commenter on yesterday’s “stans” posting reminds me of the famous New Yorker “New Yorkistan” cover by Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz, which managed to provide a silly New York moment in the dark days of late 2001, and so deserves bigger play here:


From Meyerowitz’s blog:

By early November 2001 the people of New York had settled into a deep funk, and the war against the Taliban had begun in Afghanistan. While they were being bombed by us, we were, in turn, bombarded in the news with strange names: Pukhtuns and Pashtuns; Tajiks and Turkomen; Uzbeks and Baluchis; Khandihar: Khunduz; Jalalabad; Veryverybad…

Maira Kalman and I were driving through the Bronx on our way upstate. I was complaining about the tribalization of the Democratic Party which was split into warring ethnic factions and careening toward a mayoral election it was sure to lose.

“Damn Democrats!” I sputtered. “And those Afghanis think they’re tribal? Since when did New Yorkers take a back seat to anyone? We’re the most tribal group on earth! They may have Pashtuns, but we have Sharptuns, Poptuhns and Fraidykhatz!”

“So are you saying we’re in Bronxistan?” Maira asked.

“Yes, but a small section of Bronxistan called Ferreristan.” (At the time, Freddy Ferrer was warring with Mark Green, the Democrat’s candidate.)

By the time we reached our destination, we had written down 40 names. By the next day we had close to 100. By Monday afternoon our sketch of New York City renamed New Yorkistan, was on its way up to the New Yorker.

The editors loved it and commissioned it for the back page. The reception to our finished art (you can see the original art here) was so enthusiastic they made it the cover of the December 10, 2001 issue.

The response to New Yorkistan was overwhelming. The magazine disappeared from newsstands in two days, becoming the best selling issue of the New Yorker in history.

It was the talk of the town.

On Kalman, from Wikipedia:

Maira Kalman (… born 1949) is an Israeli-born American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer. Her work most widely held in WorldCat libraries is Fireboat: the heroic adventures of the John J. Harvey, a picture book she both wrote and illustrated.

This doesn’t begin to do her justice. She’s an unbelievably prolific artist, illustrator, designer, and cartoonist. On her blog, a long, funny, moving sequence “In Love With A. Lincoln”. A New Yorker cover, “Easter Parade”:


One of many fashion-oriented covers she’s done for the magazine. Another, non-fashion, cover, “Dog Reads Book”:


And a Frida Kahlo illustration / cartoon:


(The man in question was Diego Rivera.)

Now, the irrepressibly playful Meyerowitz. From Wikipedia:

Rick Meyerowitz (born November 29, 1943, The Bronx, New York) is an American artist, and author. He is best known for his work for National Lampoon magazine and its spin-offs, including his poster for the comedy film Animal House.

Meyerowitz has worked as a commercial artist and as the author and artist of humorous books such as Return of the Nose Masks (1998; a book of punch-out masks to be worn on the nose) and Dodosaurs: The Dinosaurs That Didn’t Make It (1983); he has also illustrated children’s books (Rip Van Winkle, 2004, for example).

Meyerowitz’s collaborations with the artist Maira Kalman produced New Yorkistan, a popular cover for The New Yorker magazine, as well as editorial and humor pieces for The New York Times. Coasters which the two artists designed were for sale at the Museum of Modern Art.


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