Cartoon highlights from two New Yorkers ago

November 17, 2003, issue. The second in a continuing series of analysis-free descriptions. Inspired by Seinfeld’s Mr. Elinoff: “Cartoons are like gossamer, and one doesn’t dissect gossamer.”

1. Cover by Gary Larson. On the second floor porch of the wooden saloon, two women open their mouths and raise their hands as they look into the dirt street below. They wear low-cut dresses and much rouge and eye shadow.

Below them, on the saloon sidewalk, men in vests and wide-brimmed hats point into the street and open their mouths widely. A graying woman with a cane covers her mouth. Another woman leans to cover a boy’s eyes with her hand. At the saloon doors, one man stands still, holding a beer. An older man peers out from over the saloon doors.

In the dirt street, with plains and buttes in the background giving way to whispy clouds above, a dog is in mid-stride toward the saloon. A large woman lunges for a large and freckled baby and looks back at the scene over her shoulder.

Halfway between the wooden sidewalks, a man in a wide-brimmed hat sits on a small stool and applies a pencil to canvas on a easel. He sketches disproportionate eyes on the picture of a man whose nose is large, whose hat is wide-brimmed and whose tongue hangs lazily from a buck-toothed mouth.

This illustrator looks beyond the easel, down the street, at another man. This second man does not resemble the man in the sketch, aside from the wide-brimmed hat.

But the second man is positioned much like the first: behind an easel, sitting on a stool, with his free hand hanging at his side. Two men huddle behind him, pointing at the unseen canvas on his easel.

In the foreground, a wrinkled piece of paper is tacked to a beam on the near side of the street. Amid minor decoration, the text on the paper reads: “THE CARTOON ISSUE.”

2. Page 130. A two-page spread of the ongoings at Shanahan’s bar includes many characters speaking to each other. Typical bar phrases are juxtaposed with atypical situations, and vice versa. Outside the bar, a woman prepares to enter. Turning around as she reaches for the doorknob, she tells the children behind her, “Now, make sure you don’t get separated from your drinking buddy.” The children are holding hands in twos.

Also on the sidewalk, a dog with a vacant smile on his face is tied by his leash to a parking meter. In front of the dog, there are two bowls, one labeled “WATER” and the other “SCOTCH.”

Propped against the side of the building, there lies a creature with his head stuck in a rounded jar and his arms drooped at his sides. Four other rounded jars, all toppled, surround him. The jars are labeled “HUNNY,” and the creature appears to be bear-like in form.

3. Page 155. A young boy stares up at a swiveling rack of eyeglasses for sale. Each pair of glasses has a set of eyes in them, and they are all looking at him. The young boy looks upset.

Cartoon highlights from last week’s New Yorker

The first in a continuing series of analysis-free descriptions. Inspired by Seinfeld’s Mr. Elinoff: “Cartoons are like gossamer, and one doesn’t dissect gossamer.”

1. Page 85. A racoon sits at a bar. The racoon is holding a martini. “Don’t mind me, Richie”“” the racoon says to the bartender, “it’s just the rabies talking.”

2. Page 110. Two men stand, sweating, in the fires of hell. “It’s not the heat”“” the first man says to the second, “it’s the eternal damnation.”

3. Page 92. A middle-aged woman stands at the door of her house, talking to two other middle-aged women and three cats on the front porch. A man is leaving, holding an opened umbrella in one hand and a briefcase in the other. He is wearing a top coat, a bow tie and a business-like felt hat.

“Once you get some breakfast in him and get him off to work,” says the wife, “he does make a fair-to-middling breadwinner.” (Emphasis is the cartoonist’s.)