SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
George Booth put a lot of dogs and cats in his cartoons. They weren’t traditionally cute but unquestionably companions – threadbare prong-eared bull terriers and cats who look electric-charged while a woman strides into the living room with thick, dark rings around her eyes, and the dog and cats bounce off the walls to hear her announce, eyeliner is back. George Booth’s bull terrier became a kind of mascot for The New Yorker, for whom he drew cartoons. A dog listed slightly on his haunches next to a sign that said, beware – skittish dog. How New York. I don’t try to analyze humor, he told The New York Times in 1993. You go nowhere doing that. The thing is funny, or it’s not funny. George Booth died this week at the age of 96.
Sandra Boynton, the great author and illustrator, told us 96 turns out to be not nearly enough years – so deft, so chaotic and precise, so benevolent and merrily subversive. And Asher Perlman, one of today’s great New Yorker cartoonists, told us, I always loved the weirdness of his characters, the effortless flow of his line work, and, of course, his otherworldly ability to capture the very essence of dog. I could stare at his cluttered, chaotic rooms for hours.
George Booth also had the only cartoon in The New Yorker the week following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York. It was a woman, said to be based on his mother, who had laid down her violin to sit on a stool and shudder in silence. The cat nearby had its head to the floor, cringing at something he couldn’t bear to see. It was inexplicable without a caption and, like so much of what George Booth captured in his brushstrokes, somehow perfect. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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