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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons » User review

Too short and too small

  • May 7, 2011
This book serves only as an introduction and outline to the topic of American political cartooning, and suffers from being both too short and too small.

Too short--since much of the 150 pages are given over to reproducing the cartoons, there is little room for the history of the field of cartooning, the artists, and the subject matter down through the last 250 years.  And in fact, because of the shortness of space, it seems that the authors spend more time introducing the subject matter of cartooning  than they do talking about the cartoons or cartoonists who create them.  For exxample, the text takes a paragraph to explain the O. J. Simpson trial, but the book reproduces only one cartoon about the trial, and none of the background about how cartoonists overall handled the trial and the aftermath.   At only 163 pages, when many non-fiction books run twice or three times that, it seems like there would have been room for more pages, more history, and more cartoons without breaking backs or budgets..  

Too small--the book format is only 5 x 8 and most of the cartoon reproduced are quarter-page size or less, an odd choice for a book about a medium that originally appeared on newspaper pages in spaces typically larger and sometimes much larger than that.  The small reproductions make it impossible to read some of the text or see some of the detailed background of the drawings, which can be key to understanding, especially in the older cartoons that often used more and finer background detail and text.  Perhaps the publisher and the writers didn't want the size and cost of a coffee-table book, but that size would have fit the subject format better.  

So if you want a quick-brush introduction to American political cartooning, this would be a starting place, but not the place you'd likely end up.  In fact, if anyone knows of a more detiled study of the topic that is longer and larger, comment below with a link to it. 

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May 07, 2011
From what you are telling us this sounds like a worthwhile project that misses the mark. Perhaps someone will be inspired to do it right.
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #37
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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It's hard to imagine a book on this topic that's better thanDrawn and Quartered. Authors Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop have created a history that is lucid, authoritative, and fun. The profuse illustrations are, as one would expect, varied and entertaining. Even better, the cartoons featured do an excellent job of demonstrating the evolution of political cartooning from Ben Franklin (America's first editorial cartoonist) to the present.

Hess and Northrop do an excellent job of relating cartoons to the political and social climate in which they were created. For example, "Caricatures of [Martin Luther] King, Malcolm X, and the other African American leaders who rose to prominence [in the 1950s and 1960s] are hard to find. Cartoonists and their newspapers grew so sensitive to the volatility of caricaturing black leaders, fearing that they would be perceived as racial slurs.... Instead, cartoonists employed generic situations and peopled them with generic black figures. Martin Luther King Jr. became an invisible man in the cartoons of the [era]."

Readers casually interested in the topic will find Drawn and Quartered an entertaining and unique book. Aficionados will be satisfied with the book's sagacity and depth, and may even discover illustrators that they did not know. All will agree that Hess and Northrop deserve a round of applause. --Michael Gerber

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ISBN-10: 1880216396
ISBN-13: 978-1880216392
Author: Stephen Hess
Publisher: Elliott & Clark Publishing

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