I seldom pick up The New Yorker now, but there was a time when once a week I would take the latest copy from the library's magazine room to our lunch room to read the cartoons during lunch. I would also glance at the "Talk of the Town" and the book reviews and scan the table of contents, occasionally coming back to the issue if I wanted to read the short stories, but the cartoons were the draw. I recollected this past with pleasure as I read How About Never - Is Never Good for You?; My Life in Cartoons by Bob Mankoff.
"How about never - is never good for you?" is the memorable part of the caption of Bob Mankoff's most famous cartoon. It has been enshrined in The Yale Book of Quotations and, according to Mankoff, been ripped off by comedians and the makers of T-shirts. He is collecting royalties on sales of the cartoon from the Cartoon Bank, which he founded, so he has profited. He tells stories about several of his cartoons in his multifaceted book.
How About Never - Is Never Good for You? may be called a memoir, but large sections of it deal with topics other than Mankoff. He recounts the history of cartooning and the story of The New Yorker magazine, and he profiles many of his fellow cartoonists. He also gives readers hints on how to win the weekly caption contest at The New Yorker.
Anyone contemplating cartooning as a career will find Mankoff's behind-the-scenes stories very instructive. The rest of us can appreciate the artistry and laugh at the many cartoons included. It is worth several hours of pleasure reading and may lead some readers back to The New Yorker.
Mankoff, Bob. How About Never - Is Never Good for You?; My Life in Cartoons. Henry Holt and Company, 2014. 285p. ISBN 9780805095906.