Bob Mankoff has the enviable job of being the cartoon editor for the New Yorker. This book is part memoir, discussing his own path to becoming first aBob Mankoff has the enviable job of being the cartoon editor for the New Yorker. This book is part memoir, discussing his own path to becoming first a cartoonist and then an editor, as well as founder of the online Cartoon Bank. It also includes a decent history of the art of cartooning in publishing, tracing its development as influenced by society as a whole and also the quirks of the editors who selected the cartoons.
As one might expect of a book about cartoons, it's pretty enjoyable to read. There are liberal examples of some very funny cartoons scattered throughout the book, which also makes it a pretty quick read. Mankoff spends a fair amount of time talking about his own learning curve in becoming a cartoonist, and also tells the stories of half a dozen contemporaries and the paths they took to getting their first prized published cartoon.
While the book touches only lightly on the subject of social commentary, it was interesting to realize just how widespread the influence of some cartoons has been. In addition to the book's now infamous title, the phrase "Well, I guess it's back to the drawing board" first entered the lexicon in the caption of a cartoon. The book helped me remember just how valuable an art form that entertains as it enlightens can be....more
Polly Letofsky had a comfortable life and a condo in Vail when several of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Wanting to do something to hePolly Letofsky had a comfortable life and a condo in Vail when several of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Wanting to do something to help, Polly realized she could combine her childhood desire to walk around the world with an awareness and fundraising campaign for this difficult disease. 3MP is the journal of her travels across 4 continents and 5 years.
From the beginning of her book, Polly's vivacity and enthusiasm for her project is infectious. The writing gets off to a bit of a bumpy start, however, as her initial accounts of heading out of Vail towards California fall into a bit of this-happened-then-this-happened trap as she struggles with unreliable fundraising partners and unstable walking support teams. This is not surprising given that covering such an enormous span of physical space and time would be a challenge for even the most seasoned writer. But once Polly hits New Zealand, she begins to hit both her walking and her writing stride, and I found myself really enjoying her story.
I learned quite a bit about different parts of the world from reading this book. The road threw many surprises, challenges and delights at Polly along her path, and hers is a good reminder of how different travel can be than we expect.
She had prepared herself for hard hours of solitude on her journey, but was adopted by the Lions Club early on and handed off from town to town by their enormously helpful members. In parts of Asia she had as many as 150 people walking with her at a time, and had to fight to spend so much as 10 minutes on her own in that community oriented culture.
Knowing 4 people close to me who have openly fought breast cancer myself, I was also surprised to realize that there are parts of the world where this disease is still barely acknowledged. Polly's campaign was critically useful in several Asian countries where there was no public awareness of what a breast lump meant and many women were diagnosed well past the point where they could be helped.
Polly happened to be in a predominantly Muslim country when 9/11 struck, so her journal also thoughtfully records the reactions of the world around her during that awful time. Though she did make some itinerary changes due to the attacks, the greatest hostility she experienced happened in Europe, where her Lions Club allies were all on vacation and rude shopkeepers had no use for a shoestring American traveler no matter how important her mission.
Aside from her distinctly unfriendly welcome in Greece and her discovery that it is a really bad idea for a woman to walk alone in India, however, Polly's journey is one that is genuinely inspirational. The support she received both for her mission and herself was incredibly moving, and I found myself tearing up more than once as she described the strings of little gifts and miracles that carried her around the globe as she tried to do her own small part to help. I closed this book with a real sense of hope for humanity, and a lot more educated about the world we live in to boot....more
In preparation for going on Shark Tank last year, we read all of the books published by the sharks.
Corcoran's was by far my favorite. Her business stIn preparation for going on Shark Tank last year, we read all of the books published by the sharks.
Corcoran's was by far my favorite. Her business story itself is fascinating - she started her namesake Manhattan real estate empire with $1000 borrowed from a boyfriend. The book is full of stories about how she grew that business, including how she hit upon the idea to publish the real estate report that gave her company such wide name recognition, her decision to take a full time second job to subsidize her previously successful company after it took a dive with the stock market, and her refusal to back down and ultimate victory over a lawsuit filed against her company by Donald Trump.
What made this book so intriguing, however, was not just the stories from her business life, but how she wove them together with lessons she learned as one of 10 kids in a scrappy New Jersey family. When the authors of most business books begin the obligatory discussions of their childhoods, I usually start skimming the pages. But in Corcoran's case, she's actually succeeded in drawing clear connections between stuff she learned as a kid and choices she made later as a mogul. The sheer exuberance of the woman is a large part of what makes this work.
I finished this book knowing that Barbara was the shark my husband and I most wanted to make a deal with. She's a genius marketer, for one, and having sold her real estate company, appears to put a tremendous amount of energy into the companies she invests in. So when Barbara announced she disliked my husband on sight because he reminded her of her ex-husband, it was particularly disappointing. Still, I'm glad I read this book any would recommend it to any entrepreneur....more
This is an oral history of the iconic comedy show that interviews performers, hosts, writers and producers from the show's first year in 1975 throughThis is an oral history of the iconic comedy show that interviews performers, hosts, writers and producers from the show's first year in 1975 through this book's publication in 2002.
Like many of my generation, I grew up badgering my parents to stay up late enough to be able to watch such characters as Roseanne Rosannadanna and The Blues Brothers, then abandoned the show when creator Lorne Michaels and the original cast left 5 years later. Though I didn't start watching it again regularly until Tina Fey's resemblance to Sarah Palin set their political satire back on fire, I was surprised to realize what a powerful comedy force SNL remained even during its so-called "bad" years.
What I gained most from this book was an understanding of just how radically SNL transformed both television and American comedy. The book paints an excellent portrait of the historical context in which the show was born, and goes into some detail about the battles Michaels had to fight to get his comedic vision on the air originally and then get it back under his control after his return years later.
While hearing the story from multiple voices can sometimes get repetitive, the technique also offers a unique, multifaceted perspective on the show and its major players. As one might expect a book about a comedy show to be, it is also incredibly funny in some places; I laughed out loud more than once and resurrected a deep affection for cast members I never knew but still claim as my own.
If there is anything this book makes clear, however, it's that producing a weekly live comedy show is anything but fun and games. I learned more about the unpleasant sides of certain comedy heros than I wanted to know, and the stories of power struggles, drug addiction, sexism, and network politics make is appear miraculous that the show ever got on the air at all, let alone continues to have such an impact over so many decades.
There are those who argue that SNL has lost its edge, and no longer takes the risks that it did when it was first born. This is undoubtedly true, but the book does a good job of arguing that part of the reason for this is because SNL was so successful in bringing cutting edge comedy to the mainstream that what used to be so radical is now normal.
That said, the show continues to be a major force in American entertainment, having produced more household name stars than can be easily counted. I completed this book as Jimmy Fallon was launching on The Tonight Show, an event I doubt even Lorne Michaels could have foreseen when he cast him as a Weekend Update anchor shortly after plucking him from obscurity. Where SNL will go from here remains to be seen, but after nearly 40 years, its safe to say it will continue to have an impact as long as its on the air....more
I'm a fan of Patton Oswalt's stand up comedy, so when I found this book on a list of comedy library must reads, I was really looking forward to experiI'm a fan of Patton Oswalt's stand up comedy, so when I found this book on a list of comedy library must reads, I was really looking forward to experiencing more of his work.
Unfortunately, the book is a very mixed bag. It's not a memoir, exactly, though there are some autobiographical pieces that can be both funny and moving. Nor is it pure comedy writing, though there are sections in which he takes a theme and riffs on it a writerly way for a good long time. While there are moments of sheer brilliance, the overall impact of this scattershot style is very hit or miss.
I found his later pieces about his early stand up years the most interesting, and I'm glad that someone has finally explained to me how to play Dungeons and Dragons. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book unless you are a hardcore Oswalt fan. ...more
I first heard about this memoir from a male acquaintance who raved about the portrait it painted of a fatherless boy becoming a man under the tutelageI first heard about this memoir from a male acquaintance who raved about the portrait it painted of a fatherless boy becoming a man under the tutelage of a handful of characters who frequented a pub down the street from his home. And the book did start off promisingly enough, with an overview chapter that demonstrated the author knew something about how to construct a sentence and intriguing teasers for events in the coming pages.
I hadn't gotten very far into the author's descriptions of his unarguably challenged childhood, however, before I came close to abandoning the book altogether. I've read quite a few memoirs, including many that describe childhoods even worse than this author's, but I've never encountered one with such an overarching tone of self-pity, and I wasn't sure I could stand 400+ pages of that.
The book became less maudlin as he grew older, however, and replaced that victim-of-circumstances tone with a more insightful victim-of-his-own-bad-choices tale. There are moments in the telling of that tale that do shine - he can be funny at times, and I did get a better sense of what the foreign (to me, anyway) world of bar culture can be like.
Ultimately, though, I finished this book feeling like the author did not succeed in telling the story he wanted to tell. Bars are full of yarns and he relates some good ones, but they are not linked together in a very coherent way. He also has a bit of a focusing problem, spending too long on events that aren't that rich while leaving other enormous topics (like alcoholism) almost entirely unmined.
In one section of the book, the author talks about his failed attempts to write a novel about the bar that became his adopted home. I can't help but wonder if he had stuck with that project if he might ultimately written a better book, one with more discipline and insight. As it stands, he is too captive to his own nostalgia to have made the world he loved accessible to those of us not already familiar with it....more