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Backing Into Forward: A Memoir

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  147 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
The award-winning cartoonist, playwright, and author delivers a witty, illustrated rendition of his life, from his childhood as a wimpy kid in the Bronx to his legendary career in the arts.

 A gifted storyteller who has delighted readers and theater audiences for decades, Jules Feiffer now turns his talents to the tale of his own life.

 Plagued by learning problems, a contro
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Knopf Group E-Books (first published September 1st 2008)
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I'm not entirely sure how this ended up on my to-read list. I think one of my goodreads friends recommended it after I read Menaker's book or the Mad history collection. It fits right in between those two anyway and that is the best story I can come up with. Feiffer writes more entertainingly than Menaker, but in the same self-effacing style and about the same NYC literary world (except Feiffer is more successful and has bigger/more famous name drops). And of course, Feiffer is a cartoonist (a c ...more
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, nonfiction, memoir
I can't remember why I requested this, but I'm glad I did. I didn't even know that Feiffer was the illustrator for Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth, but that makes a lot of sense. Despite knowing virtually nothing about his career, this was a really enjoyable read and it was extremely easy for my neurotic, contrarian self to relate to the good-natured rage that fuels his outlook on life.

My one complaint is that his story sometimes loops back on itself, and because it is focused on his career t
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one took me awhile. I love his drawings and he had some really good political insights and creative process insights but otherwise this book felt all over the place. It wasn't until the end that he claimed it was a career memoir but he really picked and chose personal information wily nily to share in a way that felt confusing and wasn't sure what to make of him skimming over him leaving his first wife but then a focus on his siblings but really only in a short chapter. Like I said--all ove ...more
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What’s the difference between memoir and autobiography? I’ve been reading a few of these simultaneously: Moss Hart’s Act One, Neil Simon’s Rewrites, and this book, Jules Feiffer’s newly-published Backing Into Forward. It seems the definition depends on the author. I’ll get around to reviewing Hart and Simon when I finish them (I bought each for a quarter at a library book sale, which means that I’m bound to give precedence to anything that comes in off my hold list), but suffice to say that for ...more
Dani Peloquin
Aug 22, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jules Feiffer’s memoir Backing Forward is the story of a young Jewish boy in New York who is able to harness his storytelling and illustrating talent in order to produce some of the best comics from the1940s to the present. Before he was ever published, or even entered high school, he used his drawing skills to help survive and find a place for himself. Despite the fact that he was not a jock, he was still able to gain the acceptance of the popular crowd through his illustrations. The popular bo ...more
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Feiffer, Jules. BACKING INTO FORWARD. (2010). ****. Feiffer began this “memoir” when he turned eighty-years old. In it, he chronicles – mostly – his career from a nerdy kid to one of our most respected cartoonists and authors. Growing up in Brooklyn, he realized early on that he couldn’t compete with the other neighborhood kids in physical activities, so took to his basic love of comics as a way to command respect in the hood. He started drawing from age eight on, and developed his style by stea ...more
Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone chasing fame, fans of memoir, comics
Recommended to Susan by: goodreads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cartoonist, playwright, film writer, children’s book author, and activist, Feiffer has certainly had an interesting life, and he was friends or worked with a ton of fascinating folks, including William Stryon, Alfred Kazin, Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols, Gene McCarthy, Maurice Sendak, Kenneth Tynan, Will Eisner, Robert Lowell, Philip Roth, Woody Allen, Roger Rosenblatt, Joseph Heller, Lillian Hellman, Art Buchwald, Edward Sorel, and more. His older cousin grew up to be attorney Roy Cohn. Feiffer was ...more
Marco Kaye

I have this habit of reading memoirs and biographies of people whose work I am not fully acquainted with. I’ve wondered if this is a bad habit. When it works, I approach the artist’s work with a deeper understanding. This was a book when it didn’t pay off.

I knew that Jules Feiffer was a longtime cartoonist for The Village Voice, but that was about it. Oh, there is a Feiffer quote outside the Design Within Reach store I walk by everyday on the way to work. Ma
Bookmarks Magazine
What critics seemed to appreciate most about Backing into Forward was its disregard for convention. Feiffer relates pathetic tales from his childhood without reservations or unnecessary dramatization; he frankly admits his lack of feeling for his parents and moves along. He states his youthful desire for fame but then discusses notable characters from the 1960s and 1970s as if they were just people from the neighborhood (which, in many cases, they were). This honest, but ambling, style annoyed t ...more
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jules Feiffer's cartoons in the Village Voice in the Fifties and early Sixties were a major formative influence if you grew up in New York then, aspired to be hip, and had both leftist and neurotic leanings. (Woodie Allen took over the territory in the Seventies). Since I qualified on all counts, reading those weekly strips were akin to jumping on the next Dylan album. So I decided to read this memoir/autobiography as a hommage. The first part of the book- growing up poor and Jewish and nebbish ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, there are more penis/sex references than I expected, but this was otherwise pretty much exactly what I wanted from Jules Feiffer: at times self-deprecating, funny, neurotic, or nostalgic (often several at once), lots of reference drawings/comics, and quite an impressive amount of name dropping. Despite (or rather due to) a complicated relationship with his mother, she's the only female in his life that gets much mention. Apparently, his current wife didn't want to be included and I suspect h ...more
The Bookloft
Bookseller: Lauren

When I was young, forgotten, meek, the observer of all "the fun," I dreamed that someday I'd be famous - then they'd HAVE to notice. Funny, Jules Feiffer felt the same. He took his half-full glass of life and tried to fill it with all kinds of fame producing activities: comic strips, plays, novels, illustration - but his glass was always half full - now, in his 80's, he finds he hasn't really been filling his glass, he has been gulping it down - only to find that it has always
Oct 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got to hear Jules Feiffer speak at the Small Press Expo last month, and he was such a fascinating and entertaining guy that I was inspired to read his memoir. Given the variety of Feiffer's output-- comic strips, graphic novels, plays, novels, film scripts, picture books, non-fiction works, etc.-- it's not too surprising his book is a scattershot affair, going into great detail on some aspects of his life and work while barely mentioning others. While this can be frustrating at times, it would ...more
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, comics
Jules Feiffer has lived more than you. That's why his memoir is better than yours. He lived "Kavalier and Clay" when he worked for comic legend Will Eisner. He lived "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Peanuts" in his early strip "Clifford." He wrote the unpublishable comic equivalent of Catch 22, "Munro," where a 4 year old gets drafted into the army. He also remained sharp as the Village Voice changed around him. He rubbed elbows and shared drinks with some of my favorites: Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, ...more
Allison Herman
This is the autobiography of Jules Feiffer, wonderful author and illustrator of many fine children's books. I liked this book, although I really wanted to love it. The story of how Feiffer got into his profession is certainly interesting, but I had trouble keeping up with all the name-dropping. I know he was mentioning writers I should know, but oftentimes I had no idea. That got a little wearing at times. I skimmed through the latter half of the book, mainly because the due date was drawing nea ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew that Roy Cohn was Jules Feiffer's cousin or the family member that he was supposed to emulate? We all knew something about Jules' mother, but the reason she gets rid of the puppy who loves him, really portrays his victimization at her hands (or voice shall we say). This is a book full of anecdotes, most of them involving other famous people as well and it is a fascinating and interesting read, and the illustrations are terrific. It deserves all the good things the NY Times has said abou ...more
J. Ewbank
This book by Feiffer is many things. It is especially a story about Feiffer and his handicaps which were overcome to become the successful person he became. It is an interesting study when looked at in this respect. It is full of the names of people that you have heard of and many of those that you haven't. If you like light biography this book will certainly appeal to you. It has several cartoons done by Feiffer included.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms" and "Wesl
I was a casual fan of Jules Feiffer, only because I love The Phantom Tollbooth and while reading this book was interesting in the sense that it gave me a broader understanding of his work, I did not find his life to be all that interesting. I was especially curious about his mother. He absolutely despises her and yet what I read hardly made her sound like Mommie Dearest. Did I miss a chapter?

Best for big fans, and people interested in a certain NYC artistic and political scene spanning much of
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book is labeled as a memoir, but its more of a rambling, discursive autobiography. Feiffer was a cartoonist for more than 40 years in the Village Voice, illustrated The Phantom Tollbooth, and wrote the screenplays for both Carnal Knowledge and Popeye - quite a combination. He's got some interesting stories to tell, but the book was less compelling than I had hoped. He is uncomfortably candid at times, and the book tends to jump around a fair amount. I enjoyed it because I'm interested in his ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-ups
It just moved so slowly I couldn't deal, even though I really wanted to hear what he had to say. He works better in comics and plays. 100 pages in and I wanted to shake him: "We get it! Your mother guilt-tripped you permanently! Will Eisner is awesome! You sucked at life except cartooning! Your sister was a communist! Now TELL US SOMETHING NEW!" But he rrererererereiterated.
Not as funny as his cartoons. I tried to find out about his marriages but they were obviously not of great importance in his life. I looked at the cartoons and skimmed alot. The loudest message is how much he hated his mother.
Robert Wechsler
A big disappointment due to the pretty standard, play-by-play description. It’s self-effacing, but not interestingly so. What I missed most of all, more than the humor, was the wisdom. Next was the creativity. The cartoons throughout the book are great.
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The more I read about Jules Feiffer, the less respect I had for him. I just didn't find his life that interesting or honorable. I might have liked it more if I knew the history of comics and if I didn't mind his vulgarity, but it wasn't for me.
Steven Levy
Great stuff on the Village scene in the 50s and 60s from the inside.
Jul 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
I empathized with his attitude of avoiding unpleasant things - and how things often worked out in his favor, despite his best efforts to sabotage himself.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the history & humor, not so much the whining about his mother.
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comics superfans, people who are still amped up about Vietnam
I appreciated that Feiffer discussed his failures in more detail than his successes. Otherwise, it's diverting and fast, but not a must-read.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
if I was a little older this could be my biography, except for the last third.
Beth Sherman
Jul 08, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am having trouble focusing, no one's fault but my own, but he didn't give me much to focus on. I quit before the 1/2 mark.
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Jules Feiffer is the acclaimed author-illustrator of several books for children, including BARK, GEORGE; MEANWHILE . . .; and I LOST MY BEAR; and the illustrator of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, by Norton Juster. Jules Feiffer is also a renowned editorial cartoonist, playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. He has been the recipient of an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, a London Theatre Critics Award, an ...more
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