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The Chronicles of Now

The Ways of the World in Pictures and (Some) Words

By Anthony Haden-Guest

Allworth Press, 224 pp., softcover, 2002, $19.95

cover of the book

Cover of book and the caption the lower cartoon is "Neon never Lies!"

By Carter B. Horsley

Cartoons are illustrated jokes. They are generally not regarded as fine art, but delightful fluff. While they probably can be traced back to pre-historic times and cave art, they really came into their own in the 19th century with the proliferation of journals and newspapers.

While the "comic strips" of many newspapers is always one of their best-read features, "editorial" cartoons" have focused on political and sociological topics. These drawings are usually accompanied by a short caption and over the years many cartoonists, especially those featured in The New Yorker magazine, have established oeuvres of great panache and individuality. Sometimes their key to their success is the drawing style, or the individual characters portrayed. Sometimes it is not the quality of the illustration or the distinctiveness of the characters but the simple caption whose sardonic and/or satiric "punch" line is an extremely witty or caustic observation on the social mores of the time.

Don't stop to think

Typical cartoon by Anthony Haden-Guest is simple and quirky and has a great caption

Abe Hirschfeld, whose large, theatrical caricatures, graced the front page of The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section for decades, is perhaps the most famous example of a cartoonist whose works qualify, and sell as, art. (Many artists, such as those belonging to the "Ash-Can" School," began their careers as newspaper illustrators, which is distinct from cartoonists.)

Success?

Anthony Haden-Guest's cartoons can be quite bold

Some cartoons, like the large ones that appear on "Page Six" of The New York Post, are quite detailed, but most are quick sketches and one has to be impressed with the ability of many cartoonists to consistently draw the same characters with very considerable, if not consummate, skill.

Ah, love!

The relationship between the sexes is not ignored by Anthony Hayden-Guest

Anthony Haden-Guest has been one of the most ascerbic observers of New York City's nightlife (see The City Review article on his book on Studio 54, the famous disco) and art world for a generation or so and was one of the early journalistic imports from Britain who developed a well-deserved reputation as a fine reporter and writer. In recent years, he has also dabbled in cartoons that have been prominently featured in such sophisticated publications as The New York Observer.

Truth?

Anthony Hayden-Guest's commentary here is taken from Robert Ludlum's "The Osterman Weekend"

One gets the notion that many cartoonists are ensconced in some delightful New England farmhouse concocting their screwball ditties, usually about urban and suburban entertainments, from afar, but make no doubt about Mr. Haden-Guest is a "man about town" and this collection of cartoons ain't no "Smiley" lapel pin.

Repartee party

Party repartee, put-downs and guffaws are often Anthony Hayden-Guest's fuel

Essentially, it is bons idées rather than bons mots from the party circuit and one of their niceties is that its often not the captioned remark or conversation that rings the bell, but the captioned "idea," or "reflection," or "interpretation."

Fit for a T-Shirt

This Anthony Haden-Guest lady has no pithy statement on her T-Shirt perhaps because he saw the comment on a T-Shirt

The best of his cartoons feature some sketched heads facing one another against a dark background, vaguely reminiscent of some Caravaggioesque double portrait. Mr. Haden-Guest's drawing skills may not yet be a master's but many of them evidence a good deal of flair and artistic talent in a nicely calligraphic way.

Conspiracy

Anthony Haden-Guest may not have eyes in the back of his head but he doesn't miss much

There is nothing terribly bittersweet nor nostalgic about his work. He is blunt, frontal, and quite often devastating. You, too, can be jaded, or if that's too outré for you, cool.

Theory

New York's social swirl has afforded Anthony Hayden-Guest opportunities to meet and distinctly remember all sorts of people

Survival through the pitfalls and pratfalls of an active social life is quite an accomplishment and Mr. Haden-Guest probably deserves a chestful of ribbons for service above and beyond the call of being socially adept.

Starry nights

One suspects Anthony Haden-Guest has looked long and hard at Van Gogh's "Starry Nights"

Mr. Haden-Guest is the author of several books including "True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World" (Grove/Atlantic) amd "The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night" (William Morrow & Co.). He has contributed articles to such publications as as Vanity Fair, Talk, The New Yorker, Details, Paris Review, The London Observer and the Sunday Times and Telegraph. In 1979, he won an Emmy for writing and narrating "The Affluent Immigrants," a PBS television documentary.

The book's sections include "Affairs of the Heart," "Performer Anxieties," "E-Answered Prayers," "What They Say and What they Mean: Advice to Lovers" and "Postmodernist Excuses" among others.

Humor is an embracing form of loving even at its most inane, ridiculous, or condescending. Mr. Haden-Guest is not inane, ridiculous, or odious, but inspired, perhaps righteous and always observant. The important question is is he a good song-and-dance man? I confess that I have seen him numerous times bright-eyed, albeit not bushy-tailed, at a coffee-shop devouring the morning papers and one would never guess that beneath such a proper and studious appearance lurks such discerning and affectionate glee.

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