A handsomely designed encapsulation of the artistic life of a unique American illustrator.
Born in small-town Italy and raised in working-class Chicago, Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, 2011, etc.) has likely reached his widest readership with a series of covers for New Yorker (most of them featuring multiple figures with big, round heads), though his work also encompasses strips in an alternative weekly, book covers, work for smaller journals and, most surprisingly, an unsuccessful attempt to become a successor to the late Ernie Bushmiller’s “Nancy” strip (oft-ridiculed, but the round heads suggest a link). As the book traces the artist’s development (though not, of course, chronologically), it only occasionally interrupts the parade of images with words that seem like little more than captions. Yet that annotation is crucial and illuminating, revealing an artist whose consciousness is as distinctive as his aesthetics, partly the result of “terrible” eyesight (“I have tried to convert this severe limitation into an idiosyncrasy. A pre-derangement of the senses.”) but more from a deep sense of worthlessness: “Typically, I loathe my strips nearly as much as I loathe myself.” The reflections force readers to consider Brunetti’s art through fresh eyes (though not the author’s bad eyes) and to understand the interrelationship among his aesthetic, his perception and his life. It also details a progression from a child’s scrawl to the three-dimensional work (which he resists calling sculpture) to which he has turned in depression. Like any good Italian boy, he also displays an obsession with (pre-Disney) Pinocchio.
Essential for fans but fascinating for those new to Brunetti’s work as well.