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How About never--is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons Hardcover – 14 Apr 2014

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Mankoff's deep understanding of humor, both its power and its practice, is the live wire that crackles through his new book . . . How About Never is more than a memoir . . . it's also an enormous window into the mystery and alchemy behind the creation and selection of New Yorker cartoons. --The Washington Post Evidence that the New Yorker's cartoons can still unerringly reflect the texture of our times.--The Wall Street Journal.This is a generous book, giving abundant credit to both the older generation of cartoonists whom the young Mr. Mankoff hero-worshiped to the new blood he has brought to the magazine during his tenure.--Janet Maslin, The New York Times By mixing his snappy-banter writing with actual New Yorker cartoons, Mankoff offers fascinating insight into the professional trials and artistic struggles of a cartoonist--and his own method of defining what, precisely, makes a New Yorker cartoon. --Entertainment Weekly Hilarious and insightful.--BookPage How About Never serves up not only a mini-collection of great cartoons but also a look at the shift in styles through the editorships of legendary William Shawn, Tina Brown, and current editor David Remnick. Mankoff also provides a very funny and insightful look at how to win The New Yorker caption contest. . . A must read for devotees of the magazine. -Publishers Weekly Fascinating . . . Mankoff offers a number of tips on the intelligent humor that makes it into the New Yorker--and even how to better your odds in the weekly caption process . . . Those who aspire to a career drawing for the New Yorker will find this essential reading.--Kirkus [Mankoff] delivers a witty and informative behind-the-scenes look at contemporary America media's most prominent home for great cartooning. Anyone who turns to the cartoons as soon as they get a new issue will devour this delightful book with relish. Shelf Awareness Bob Mankoff's fascinating, forthright, and funny book --Various

About the Author

Bob Mankoff is the cartoon editor for The New Yorker. Before he succeeded Lee Lorenz as editor, Mankoff was a cartoonist for the magazine for twenty years. He founded the online Cartoon Bank, which has every cartoon since the magazine's founding. He is the author of the book The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way to Enhance Your Creativity.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 119 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
How About Never: How about great cartooning fun from a master? 20 Mar 2014
By John Williamson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cartoonist Bob Mankoff has a long and rich history of putting pen to paper and creating images that make readers smile. In fact, the title of this book, How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons has its origin in one of his most celebrated cartoons, one that comes from a famous Mankoff cartoon that illustrates a businessman on the phone, trying to duck out of a lunch appointment.

And there on the cover of the book is a self-depiction of the author with a wide grin on his face, complete with a lipstick kiss on his forehead. Get to page 6 within the introduction and you'll see the follow-up image: same "How about never--is never good for you?" quote, but with the black-cloaked Grim Reaper at the door. This is typical wittiness from the author as he approaches his 70th birthday
It's a splendid start to an excellent book, one that is about half illustrations and half anecdotes. The author explains that he had had submitted a multitude of cartoons to The New Yorker before selling the first one. We learn that he was a freelance cartoonist for the the magazine for twenty years before becoming the cartoon editor... and that was while the previous cartoon editor was still there.
Bob Mankoff founded the online Cartoon Bank in the early '90s, which is the agency that sells and licenses the cartoons from The New Yorker. He also edited a number of cartoon compilations, including two personal favorites: The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons and The New Yorker Book of Technology Cartoons. His own drawing style is distinctive, as are those of the other New Yorker artists, and to his credit, this book is made up of a good number of their works that are familiar to many of us.

Without dropping too many spoilers, about halfway through this book, Mankoff explores his love/hate relationship with computers, and the cartoons and illustrations are plentiful. He had started with a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III in the mid-'80s, then moved on to the original Mac, commenting with his iconic with that using the mouse was "like drawing with a bar of soap."

Chapter Fourteen delves heavily into some of the other cartooning talent at the New Yorker, and some of the examples here are among the best of the best. One that is noteworthy is the classic cartoon by Peter Steiner, which went on to be one of the most cited, well known and reprinted in the magazine's history. It pictures one dog at a computer keyboard conversing with a canine friend, and is captioned: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

The book is also somewhat of a guide of sorts for would-be cartoonists, offering a broad range of tips about keeping illustrations coherent and to the point, about the difference between funniness that works and doesn't, about how to build on originality. The book also explains how freelance cartoonists might approach the magazine, but keep in mind that the New Yorker has a truly intimidating accept vs. reject ratio.

How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons illustrates (and pardon the pun) that Bob Mankoff is a true humorist, and it shows up on almost every page. Longtime readers of the New Yorker will appreciate this one, as it's a humorous and absorbing look at an urbane art form by one of most highly regarded top editors. New readers should appreciate the easy-going style, the background and the cartoons that have become contemporary classics.

JW ▪ 3/20/2014
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great fun 26 Mar 2014
By shiny - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bob Mankoff, the current Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker magazine, has written a delightful, funny memoir of how and why he became a cartoonist. The title is taken from the caption from his most well known New Yorker cartoon, a quip also now found on magnets and occasionally in general conversation, but that idea of "Never" also could apply to the likelihood of getting a cartoon published in one of the few remaining magazines valuing cartoons.

This book is not part of well-known series of collected cartoons from The New Yorker Magazine; however, it is an perfect complement to the series. And it would make an excellent gift for anyone who appreciates a New Yorker cartoon or who needs to be introduced to them.

Mr. Mankoff humorously zips through the twists of his life and career as a cartoonist, but along the way he also explores what creates the essence of the New Yorker magazine's cartoon, and he does so with a fine sense of humor and great cartoons.

Along the way, you find out what the job of being the Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker actually entails, and you discover that cartooning is harder work than we all fantasize. Mr. Mankoff explains the decisions about which cartoons are chosen for publication, demonstrates how that particularly intelligent form of humor at The New Yorker has evolved (due to changing times, humor, and editors), and shows how a mildly funny idea and drawing can be improved into a cartoon contender for the New Yorker. As a bonus, Mr. Mankoff does a great job of teaching you how to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest (or at least how to approach the challenge and to improve your chances).

Mr. Mankoff writes with ease and pleasant wit making the book a very enjoyable read. The many, many included New Yorker cartoons are well integrated into the text. The author includes many of his own cartoons, as well as cartoons by other well-known cartoonists and a few newer talents. The cartoon selection would be a delightful read on their own, but they have been carefully chosen as examples to support his insights about humor and the differences between cartoonists' styles and humor.

I found myself nodding, chuckling, and laughing out loud all the way through this fine memoir that is also a clear and funny exploration of the subtleties of humor and cartoons.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"The New Yorker was and is the Everest of magazine cartooning." 28 April 2014
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Some cartoons published in The New Yorker may puzzle those who do not get the artists' offbeat humor and obscure allusions. On the whole, however, loyal fans enjoy the whimsical drawings and captions that have long been a distinctive feature of this iconic publication. New Yorker cartoons stand out because of their amusing sight gags, puns, topical political references, and/or mockery of contemporary mores. A few of the cartoonists' favorite targets are yuppies, the arrogant rich, stuffy businessmen, married couples, and deceased men and women trying to gain admission to heaven.

Who decides what is funny and "New Yorkerish" enough to make the cut? One of the gatekeepers is Bronx-born Bob Mankoff, the magazine's cartoon editor since 1997. In his memoir, "How about Never? Is Never Good for You?" Mankoff provides an overview of his childhood, early influences, education, and career. In addition, he analyzes what goes into creating cartoons that will appeal to The New Yorker's audience. Finally, he tips his hat to the up-and-coming artists who, he hopes, will carry the torch for the foreseeable future.

Bob Mankoff is a self-proclaimed smart aleck who, like so many others aspiring cartoonists, papered his walls with rejection slips until he finally made the grade. Mankoff entertainingly talks about such creative geniuses as Sam Gross and the inimitable Roz Chast, and explains how and why he developed his "stippling" style. In addition, he points out that The New Yorker's standards and traditions have changed according to who has been at the helm. When Tina Brown was chief, she opened the door to risqué themes that her predecessor, William Shawn, would have firmly rejected. Now that David Remnick is the editor, the pendulum has swung more to the center. No cartoon makes the weekly issue unless Remnick deems it funny, well-drawn, and in good taste.

"How about Never?" is fun, chatty, and provides an insider's look at how the cartoon editor and his staff whittle down the more than five hundred submissions they receive weekly to a final few. Mankoff, who created "the world's first computerized cartoon database," known as the Cartoon Bank, showcases the work of a variety of talented people in the pages of this book. (My favorite is a cartoon drawn by Danny Shanahan, featuring the collie and former television star, Lassie.) "How about Never?" is a must-read for aficionados of an art form that, if Mankoff and his crew have anything to say about it, will continue to entertain and pique the interest of readers for many years to come.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Its the Cartoons, not the Text 16 Mar 2014
By Aceto - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mankoff is a first rate editor, easily in The New Yorker chair. He is a bright cartoonist -- quick on the draw and a spot-hitting captionist. His seminal cartoon, eponymous to his book, was published near the time of his ascension. I immediately posted it outside my office. It got more comments, all positive (interestingly enough) than any other posting.

His style of cartooning is his own, inspired by Pointillism in fine art. He takes it further in some ways by focusing on the parameters of a cartoon. His captions distill the culture of his life, location and times in a way that connects to ever widening circles like a stone makes dropped in a glassy lake, just as The New Yorker connects.

His memoirs are, by comparison, disappointing. His writing is so casual that it has none of the grit he fastens in just a phrase. I was finishing his sentences before my eyes hit them. Worst of all, and worst is again relative, his memoirs neglect many opportunities to explain things and events we are not privy to. I suspect he speaks far better to other cartoonists in this book. He shows why things work. He gives examples of different approaches by different cartoonists. Finally he discusses the hard business of editing, The New Yorker bastion since Ross(as a withering sideline), Shawn and all.

I do not mean to put anyone off; three stars mean better. I found myself gliding across the easy text, but powered to get to the next page of cartoons.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A funny, entertaining read 24 April 2014
By Sharon Garner - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't read The New Yorker and was only familiar with their cartoons from the various anthologies put out. I didn't, therefore, pick up this book out of a fascination for the subject but rather because I had heard an interview with the author and it intrigued me. I thought it would be worth the time, but in fact it was one of those books that I started and simply couldn't put down. I found the history of the New Yorker cartoons (and cartoons in general for that matter) to be fascinating, well told and of course well-illustrated. It could have bogged down in the biographical bits but it didn't, possibly because the cartoons on each page made me laugh, smile or think even at those points where the life story wasn't compelling.
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