George Booth at 90: elephants and holidays

The 1/1/18 New Yorker cover, by George Booth:


To come: about this cover; Booth covers for the holidays; the metaphorical idiom elephant in the room and its exploitation by artists and cartoonists.

Booth’s elephant. From the magazine’s site: “George Booth’s “Cramped”” by Françoise Mouly on 12/25/17:

“I’ll tell you a quick one about art school in Chicago, back around 1948, when I attended the Academy of Fine Arts,” George Booth, who turned ninety last June, said, when asked about how he learned to draw elephants. He continued:

There was a kid in cartoon class, gag cartoon class — he couldn’t do very well. He was from Texas. Mr. Garrity was the teacher. And Mr. Garrity confided in me that he didn’t have much hope for this Texas kid. He was trying to get all the country kids like me started on gag cartoons. I was born in Cainsville, Missouri (population: four hundred), and then we moved to Martinsville, Missouri (population: seventy-five). One morning in class, he tried to encourage the Texas boy and bragged on what the kid was doing, drawing elephants and donkeys. Mr. Garrity made up a compliment and told the boy he was doing all right, just keep going. The kid liked being complimented, and he turned his head –– this kid had a big mouth, full of Texas teeth — and he looked straight up at Mr. Garrity and said, “I tries, Mr Garrity, I tries.” I’ll never forget that, because that’s what I do with cartooning — I tries.

On this blog on 11/1/12, a posting about the cartoon “Ip Gissa Gul”, with information about Booth and two other cartoons of his.

Holiday Booth. In recent years, with material from the magazine’s website:

(#2) “Cover Story: George Booth Celebrates the Holidays” by Françoise Mouly and Mina Kaneko 12/15/14

“My favorite thing about the holidays is the people I love,” George Booth says of “Doggone, It’s That Time of Year Again!,” the cover of this week’s issue. He continues:

We celebrate Christmas with Dionne, my wife, and my daughter, Sarah, and we got a couple of pussycats — Schrodinger and Max. (We don’t have any dogs at the moment.) I grew up in northwest Missouri, about thirty miles from the border with Nebraska, twenty-five from Kansas, and twenty from Iowa, tucked up in the corner — corn country, snow country. It was a wonderful little town called Fairfax. My dad was superintendent of the schools and I had two brothers (I still got one). My mother, Mawmaw Booth, passed away some years ago. I feel her presence all the time. When I was three and half, I drew a race car stuck in the mud. I laughed at it and laughed at it, and she started encouraging me to be a cartoonist — and it went on from there. But, you know, when you publish that cover, she may come back.

(#3) “Cover Story: George Booth’s “Holiday Spirit”” by Mina Kaneko and Françoise Mouly 12/14/15

“Christmas has always been a high point for me, ever since I was three and a half and started cartooning,” the artist behind this week’s cover, George Booth, who will turn ninety in 2016, says. “I love holidays, and I can’t think of many I don’t cherish. The first town that I lived in as a kid had a population of seventy-five; we celebrated just Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I’ve been influenced by living in New York, I guess. Now I celebrate the whole shmegegge. Still, one of my favorites is the time when Santa Claus comes over the horizon and he and his elves start running all over the place.”

And three earlier ones:

(#4) “A Laugh on Santa” 12/15/03

(#5) “Holiday Howls” 12/13/04

(#6) “Ho-ho-ho” 12/13/10

Always with the dogs.

The idiom in #1. From a 7/5/16 posting on elephant in the room, quoting from Wikipedia:

“Elephant in the room” or ” Elephant in the living room ‘ is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. It is based on the idea/thought that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook.

The ubiquity of the situation described by the idiom and the vividness of the idiom have together made it a natural theme for playful artists, for example:

(#7) The Elephant in the Room as seen at one of Banksy’s exhibitions. Here a real live elephant was used painted with children’s face paint.

and a meme for cartoonists, here (from a great many possibilities) two Bizarros (one an instance of the psychoanalyst meme, the other of the witness stand meme) and a Shannon Wheeler:

(#8) No one acknowledges the elephant

(#9) No one even notices the elephant

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in these two cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in the first and 2 in the second — see this Page.)

(#10) We prefer not to talk about the elephant

Elephant? What elephant?


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