In characteristically wry tones, the celebrated cartoonist/playwright/illustrator looks back at a six-decade (and counting) working life, paying particular attention to his early influences.
First among these are the comic strips and superhero comics that Feiffer (Passionella and Other Stories, 2006, etc.) read and copied in his Bronx youth; he pays warm tribute to their creators throughout his memoir. Second—and looming so large that she practically becomes the protagonist in major portions of the book—is his mother (his father rates only a few passing mentions), a notably insensitive figure who, he writes, “never failed to fail me.” She did, however, wean her son of any need to rely on the approval or judgments of others in his work, politics or private life. With chapter heads like “Lucking Into The Zeitgeist” and “Heckle and Jeckel [sic] Meet Mike and Elaine,” Feiffer retraces his career from a post–World War II apprenticeship in the studio of the legendary Will Eisner and the beginnings of a decades-long association with the Village Voice, to his establishment as a fixed star in the New York cultural firmament and a powerful voice of the New Left, to his most recent turn as a popular children’s-book author. The author describes himself as a “hardworking, never-resting combination of talent and fraud,” and he freely drops names and opinions (“Now, I had loved Annie Hall, and I used to like Woody”), which create a winning portrait of his literary and artistic milieu. Feiffer dishes up a self portrait notable for authentically sudden switches from self-effacement to touchy pride, righteous anger to bemusement, vulnerability to urbane loftiness.
A touching, penetrating memoir—though far too sparsely illustrated.