By Cheryl Kempler
In the coming months, a perfect storm of events will highlight new or unknown works by three illustrators whose tremendous gifts have become part of the lives of generations of Americans.
Defying verbal or written explanation, Roz Chast’s immediately recognizable, and immediately hilarious, images have triggered the guffaws of the New Yorker’s readers on the city’s buses and subways for more than 40 years. As quirky captions and childlike visuals work in tandem to address on subjects as disparate as gentrification, bad sartorial choices, television sitcoms and depression, Chast has applied pen to paper in another form, as the author of books like “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” –a humorous, but moving, chronicle of her role as caregiver to her elderly parents, published in 2014. The memoir reveals her unique point of view about the events that impacted her own life. This October, the Big Apple will celebrate the debut of her new and very personal guide to the city, “Going Into Town,” designed for newcomers and suburbanites who might need a little assistance in the appreciation, a la Chast, of Manhattan’s finer points. Released by Bloomsbury USA “Going Into Town” will be available in both hard copy and ebook formats.
Dubbed “the line king,” theater caricaturist Al Hirschfeld left a legacy encompassing the history of the 20th century Broadway stage before his death at age 99 in 2003. A wide audience of a certain age remembers attempting to locate the word “Nina,” an homage to his daughter, placed amid the animated lines of each Hirschfeld cartoon that graced the front page of the New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section. Appearing above the fold, they depicted the likenesses, at once stylized and readily identifiable, of well-known performers as they practiced their craft in productions ranging from “Hamlet” to “Fiddler on the Roof,” and everything in between. For these, and other drawings of movies, summer stock and television, the artist devoted seven days a week, seven hours a day, to achieving the perfection with which he is identified. Hirschfeld’s long awaited first biography, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, will be available to the public this October. Writer Ellen Stern based her 350 page book, begun in 2012, on a series of interviews she had conducted with the illustrator himself. This volume functions as a pendant to the now-digitized body of Hirschfeld drawings—created between 1920 and 2000—that can be enjoyed on the website of the foundation bearing his name. Many hours can be spent there, where many who still lament the fact that he is no longer around to capture the spirit of the stars admired in our own time will now be able to revisit and take pleasure in his masterpieces.
And… all can rejoice in a minor miracle, the recent discovery of an unknown Maurice Sendak manuscript, with accompanying illustrations that had been squirreled away in the closet of his Connecticut home for years before his death in 2012. Seeking to give new life to a series of drawings he made for a production of an obscure Czech choral piece, the beloved children’s author and his longtime buddy and collaborator Arthur Yorinks spent an afternoon in 1990 creating a fantasy in which they themselves became the protagonists. Their chosen title “Presto and Zesto in Limboland” referenced their pet names for each other. Grinning, diabolical creatures, little boys in raggedy trousers, strange musical instruments and giant spiders abound in what is sure to become a cherished book, scheduled for publication by HarperCollins next year.
By Eduardo Kohn
On Sunday, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the election he promoted to create a Congress with similar power to the Soviets some decades ago had been successful and that eight million people voted, countries around the world not only rejected what they called “a fraud of election” but also said that Maduro had become a “dictator.”
Unfortunately the results mean that the Venezuelan people—who don’t have enough food and medicines and are under a social and economic tragedy—have been suffering under a dictatorship for a long time. . The judiciary is a mockery, the Congress that was elected two years ago has been under attack every minute and has not been able to make one single decision, there are thousands of political prisoners suffering torture in prison and media have been closed down.
So, when European officers say that after what they call a fraud election on Sunday, Maduro has become a “dictator,” they are coming late.
The Assembly that has been established now will sweep away any seed of opposition and the dictatorship will be installed definitively. But in reality, it is the culmination of a process of many years, and the countries of the Americas and Europe have watched without taking serious actions, related to, among other issues, the violation of human rights. Now the situation looks very bad, as it usually happens when the world finally sits up and takes notice.
After the election, the Venezuelan regime found full support in Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador in Latin America. But most important for Venezuela, Maduro received public support from Russia, China and Iran. Those are the friends of this regime.
The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on Maduro. The U.S. government froze any American assets Maduro may have and banned Americans from doing business with him.
But even with international pressure building and Venezuela’s economy collapsing, opposition activists were facing a new challenge. How could they confront a machine that now controls all branches of government?
The new super-congress, made up entirely of government backers, will have sweeping powers to rewrite the constitution and redraw Venezuela’s governing system.
Maduro dismissed the U.S. measures, saying on television that they were imposed because he didn’t obey the “North American empire.” He added: “Impose all the sanctions that you want, but I’m a free president.”
Luisa Ortega Díaz, Venezuela’s attorney general, who broke with the government in March, on Monday declared the vote fraudulent. She suggested that Maduro and his inner circle, including a vice president accused by the U.S. government of narco-trafficking, would now seek to use the new assembly to monopolize money and power. “How will we control the public budget now? How will we know how much and in what things money is being invested?” she said. The answer is simple: there will be no control.
Latin American nations from Argentina to Panama to Brazil, including Peru and Colombia, have also declared the vote illegitimate, with regional foreign ministers set to meet in Peru next week to review the crisis. But nobody expects that crucial decisions will be made.
Last Sunday one important question was whether the domestic opposition can sustain the pressure it has brought to bear on Maduro’s administration. The brutal answer from Maduro came between Monday and Tuesday: in the middle of the night, the secret police took Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, two of the major opposition leaders, to prison.
With the support of Russia and Iran, with Hezbollah cells installed in the country, Venezuela, now a full dictatorship, is a great threat for the Americas. Its sponsors, mainly Iran, mean terrorism. And terrorism, under this picture is at the front door in the region.
The Organization of American States and the United Nations Security Council should find a way to protect Venezuela and its people, as well as the rest of the region, from such a threat. It is not only their duty, it is an urgent need.
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