Those who read certain weekly magazines specifically for the cartoons may be overjoyed to learn about a brand-new anthology. “The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons” by NYC-based cartoonist Bob Eckstein focuses exclusively on works about bookstores and the literary world at large through the work of 33 cartoonists, including Sam Gross, Roz Chast, Liza Donnelly and Bob Mankoff. Some cartoons have been previously published in The New Yorker, while others are exclusive to this new title, out Tuesday. amNewYork spoke with Eckstein about his career cartooning, how he compiled this massive collection and why the internet is endangering cartoons as we know them.
How did you start cartooning?
I got into cartooning on a dare. I was finishing my book, “The History of the Snowman,” and I was invited out to the famous New Yorker weekly lunch. There, I met Sam Gross, and he invited me to come back and submit cartoons to The New Yorker, and they actually purchased the first cartoon that I did. But that was just beginner’s luck. It took a long time to sell the second one. I became a cartoonist and started working for Barron’s, Reader’s Digest, Playboy, Wall Street Journal and [in 2011] was nominated Gag Cartoonist of the Year [by the National Cartoonists Society], so I had some success.
As a newly successful cartoonist, what did you work on next?
I was writing a book on bookstores and wanted to raise awareness of independent bookstores. I spoke a lot about that on radio and TV. I’m also an expert on snowmen, man’s earliest form of folk art.
What made you want to compile “The Ultimate Cartoon Book”?
This book is a follow-up to my book, “Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores,” which was a New York Times bestseller, and warmly received by the independent bookstore community. I couldn’t get someone to do a sequel with more bookstores, so this is a celebration of bookstores and books and all the people who I’ve befriended who own and work in bookstores. It’s a celebration of cartoons, the good old days of The New Yorker, giving a showcase and forum to veterans who we no longer see in the magazine.
How did you curate the collection?
It was very easy [to curate]. I have so many favorite cartoonists, so I made a list ranging from household names like Roz Chast to people who I know who haven’t been on the radar, like Nick Downes. I reached out to all of them and invited them to be in this book. Every few weeks I have brunch with friends who are New Yorker cartoonists, and they all chimed in with opinions and which cartoons are their favorites.