One more book

A Frank Cotham cartoon from the New Yorker on 3/2/20:


In my unfortunately frail old age, I’m not exactly doing research, and I’m certainly not going to get it in a book. But I collect stuff — ideas, images, experiences — and turn them into daily essays on my blog, much quirkier even than the stuff I used to publish. It’s a new kind of life.

From my 5/9/18 posting “The way I write now”, about Arnauld le flâneur:


Observing the furnishings of my house, the scene out my window and out my front door, and throughout my neighborhood and the area. Finding things, people, scenes, social encounters, plants and trees, birds and animals, clothing, buildings, businesses, events, restaurants, names, advertising, public art, whatever, that provide something of note — especially of linguistic or social interest — to trigger reflection and commentary. (Always carry a notebook to jot things down!)

Collecting things I (over)hear or recollect or have come to me unbidden that trigger such reflection and commentary. Things I come upon in reading (especially in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the Economist, Out Magazine, the Advocate), in art books (especially of male art), on social media (especially Facebook and Google+), on blogs (especially Language Log), in cartoons (in my daily comics feeds), in talks at Stanford, at meals, in fan fiction, on the radio, in television shows, in movies, in the theater, at concerts, at protest demonstrations and gay pride events, in the public outposts of popular culture (diners, fast-food restaurants, cafes, donut shops, motels, laundromats, bowling alleys, convenience stores), in underwear ads, at shapenote singings, in intentional or inadvertent phallic symbolism, in toys and games, in sexual encounters and fantasies, in the design of ordinary useful objects, in tracking the history of my family and of people named Zwicky, in poetry, in jokes, in memories triggered by smells or tastes, in gay porn, in museum exhibitions, in images of penguins and mammoths and rainbows, in parodies and burlesques, in the music that plays throughout the night for me and often during the day as well. Things friends bring me. Questions people ask me.

It’s all raw material. And the things I encounter in this figurative strolling present themselves not as discrete bits and pieces but come alloyed into complexes: things of personal significance to me, of linguistic significance, and of social significance (having to do with gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, region, age, class, political affiliation, and so on) all melded together, so that talking about one thing will bring others in its train. Hard-core gay stuff will probably come with linguistic footnotes, and linguistic analysis will often be accompanied by observations on gender and sexuality.

Flânerie is both amorphous and multi-form. It’s the expression of one person’s — the flâneur’s — perceptions of and responses to the world around them, but perceptions and responses informed by knowledge of many kinds. It’s not squishy emoting, but it’s also not academic discourse, journalistic report, or simple narrative of personal experience. It has an accidental quality — the flâneur comes across things by chance (or, psychologically, by free association), and one thing probably doesn’t hang together with the things around it —  that some people will find tedious or challenging (hard to comprehend) or both. But it’s now my literary genre of choice; it’s congenial to me, and as an old man no longer beholden to anyone, I claim the right to revel in my strolling.

This is the way I write now.

Frank Cotham. New to this blog, but he’s a major contributor to the New Yorker (and other publications), though apparently it took him years to break into the New Yorker (this is a familiar story in the cartoonist world).

From the Cartoon Bank Blog, “An Interview with New Yorker Cartoonist Frank Cotham” on 8/17/10:

Though Frank Cotham claims he was no great shakes at drawing in his earliest years, you’d never believe it now from examining his record: nearly 600 cartoons published in The New Yorker since 1993. This Tennessean began working in television graphics after college in Memphis (think of those colorful shapes that merge to form a news station’s logo). He left TV to pursue a different graphic art, churning out some of our favorite New Yorker cartoons reflecting the cynic’s attitude toward business, medicine, and law. Frank still lives in Tennessee …

One more Cotham cartoon, on the Godzilla theme:


(Well, everyone has to start somewhere.)

One Response to “One more book”

  1. thnidu Says:

    However it comes to be,
    I enjoy your flânerie.

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