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.
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