Perhaps Bob was not feeling fabulously diverse when he invited me to his office, because the New Yorker had just run a group photo of100 of its cartoonists, all but three of whom were white men over the age of 60. The other three were white women over 40.
Anyway, Bob e-mailed me saying he'd like to see my "portfolio of one-panels." Of course, I didn't HAVE a portfolio of one-panels, but I took a week off and drew some.
Why? I dunno. I mean, I hate everything the New Yorker stands for now - that whole smug, bemused way of looking at the world - but my idol, James Thurber, worked there, and that's where J.D. Salinger published amazing things like "A Perfect Day For Bananafish." So I did it. There's probably a question to be posed here about how much anti-establishment artists truly want to be accepted by the establishment, but I'm too tired right now for self-examination.
But I didn't tell Bob that, and I wasn't really offended by his rejection of my cartoons. Humor is subjective, and when you've worked as a journalist for as long as I have, with sources slamming down the phone on you and then calling back and threatening to have you killed, rejection really loses its sting.
What did offend me, however, was his next comment about my drawings.
"These have too much style," he said. "I think a cartoonist really has to be more established, to earn the right to be that stylized. You really have to BE SOMEBODY to have that kind of style. "
I told him I already WAS SOMEBODY, to which he replied with some kind of noncomittal verbal pat on the head. Jerk.
Anyway, I told this story to Ricky Garnier, one of this site's established fans, who kindly compared it to the Emperor Franz Josef telling Mozart his work had "too many notes."
It's amazing how closed people's minds can be. I mean, it's useless to go on and on about getting younger, female cartoonists if you want them to draw just like the 85-year-old guys who already work there.
The first draft of King and Queen of an Empty Kingdom is now available on the site.
I'm still not entirely satisfied with the ending - it's been a hard story to write, with a heroine as willfully bland as Olive Hurst - but I rushed the story a little because my dad wanted a copy of "Best Short Stories of 1997" for Christmas, and they had inexplicably forgotten to include one of mine, so I stapled "King" in the back. (Again, there's that question of acceptance by the establishment, but I really am tired.)
Anyway, I've also re-organized the list of stories for the new year, moving the misbegotten "Charlotte's Mirror" and "Greta Floating, Lillian Straight Ahead" to the Archives section, and arranging the other stories by date of completion, instead of alphabetical order.
It boggles my artistic mind why people always insist on reading "Amy Beauty Rose" just because it starts with "A" and it's the first story on the list, but that's what seems to happen.
I also put the older stories last because they need less reader input. I mean, Heart-Hooked was finished in 1993; I'm not in need of a lot of suggestions on character development, there.
On King, however, I'm anxious to hear whatever you have to say.
In addition to "Rear View Mirror", the New York City history column I'm writing for the Daily News site, I am now also a ballet correspondent for America Online.
This extremely part-time job started out as a way to get free ballet tickets, and to interview my absolute fave artist in the world right now, a 24-year-old choreographer named Christopher Wheeldon. Christopher's new ballet "Slavonic Dances" was without question the most ecstatic twenty-five minutes I spent in 1997. (Take that, everyone I dated in 1997!)
But I think the articles turned out well. All the dancers I interviewed, including Chris, were lovely people, and much, much brighter than Malley in Glory in the Golden Apple.
The articles will run once a week during January and February on AOL's Culturefinder service.