In a straight contest between the Queen’s Speech and The Biggest Tongue in Tunisia (Penguin £2.95) my vote would have to go to B. Kliban’s drawings. Mocking pretentiousness, and Big Brotherism, Kliban is a fearless funnyman prepared to laugh at almost anything: a gaggle of aimless people stand outside a building whose huge signs direct them to the ‘Illiterates Entrance‘; a glove puppet suckles a naked woman’s nipple to the caption ‘A career in showbusiness‘, and crosses replace rackets as bishops play doubles in the papal court. And there‘s no doubt a deep Freudian significance to the toasters which keep popping up.
Kliban is not represented in the latest album of cartoons from The New Yorker (Penguin £6.95) which covers 1975-85, but he could easily be. As ever some jokes rely on an intimate knowledge of American life, but these mercifully are rare. More usually the butts are the fads ofthe last decade; jogging, psychoanalysis, relationships and whales.
Over ninety cartoonists are represented, including perennials
From Chambers for Christmas
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48 The List 28 Nov -11 Dec
Alan Taylor pages good bookish ways to have a laugh.
Sempé, Koren, Opie and my current favourite Ziegler, whose glum hero is kept awake by the refrigerator. Invoking John Donne he is recommended to ‘ask not for whom the refigerator hums . . . it hums for thee.’ The New Yorker delights in urban jokes, the curt one-liners between husband and wife, and is especially good at linking verbal with visual, exemplified by Mick Stevens’ ‘Roget’s Brontosaurus’.
Beryl Cook‘s New York (Penguin £3.95), on the other hand, is an advert for weightwatchers in which obese women recline on park benches, skirts hitched obscenely above stocking tops, or negotiate revolving doors. Her gummy characters are rather sad and shameless but there‘s enough evidence here to suggest that fat is not only a feminist issue.
More up my alley, however, is Jodhpurs In the Quantocks (Cape £7.95), Glen Baxter‘s latest instalment from the land where Edward Lear‘s Bong-tree grows. Since he had a khakied colonial leap up a tree to escape ‘another slim voltime of poetry’ I’ve been a fan. His stories are an acquired taste, but who can resist the intervention in his cartoons of the surreal into conventional and stock situations? Gagged and buried to the neck in sand, two youngsters gaze skywards as the vultures hover, ‘The summer term was always a bitter disappointment,’ ponders Baxter.
Marc, in contrast to Baxter with his busy drawings, is a bold and spare draughtsman who as a political commentator depends for his effect on the ability of the news parts of the
Guardian to inform his readers. Time blunts the edge of many laughs in People Like Us (Hodder and Stoughton £4.95) but as a précis of what‘s been happening in benighted Britain in the last two years it’s on the ball. Wapping, football hooliganism and J. Archer all figure as they do in the spruced-up seventh volume of the epistles of Denis Thatcher, Just the One (Andre Deutsch/Private Eye £2.50). Why this man is not in the Cabinet heaven alone knows for he has a golf-club grip as far as matters of state are concerned. Shenanigans at Halitosis Hall (aka Westminster) dominate, but there are endearing vignettes of life chez Thatcher, particularly when Desperate Den buys Barrett at Dulwich. Sadly, he has a spanner inserted in his spokes when he advises the Boss to tell Mr Munster to get on his bike but he must still be pretty nimble for he manages ‘to get out ofthe room ahead of thelavai
These letters, comparable to Byron‘s or Waugh’s, are another reminder that in the war between the
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