Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Where the Weird Things Are

from “National Lampoon” October 1972
by Michael O’Donoghue
art by Wally Neibart

For once, nothing to do with any of what this is usually about. With all the hoo-haw about the forthcoming film it seemed nice to post this. So for once, I can post something really, really good from the glory days of “National Lampoon” without any other ideological considerations. It’s really just too good to let the opportunity slip
Michael O’Donoghue employs Maurice Sendak’s book as a template to chronicle the degeneration into anarchy of the hippy dream. However it’s not a haphazard choice of any old children’s book to do the job. “Where the Wild Things Are” is a dream about confronting anger, and O’ Donoghue subverts that message,detailing how wilfully dreamy escapism will result in squalor and violence.
Besides it’s a very good pastiche of Sendak’s style. And if you really want to, why not pretend that Max is Don draper for added perversity.
Sendak is gay, so I suppose I could use it to make some tangential link to my usual gubbins, but I shan’t.
And “Where the Wild Things Are “ was one of my first books, which is appropriate, since I was an angry, angry child. (Not every three year old boy when brought to his new prospective parents’ home takes it as an opportunity to lob a brick at them.)

While pressing the magazine on the scanner I was sufficiently bored that I read the original address label on the cover. I was surprised to see that it was addressed to a George Trow living at Grand Street in New York City. I thought it couldn’t be the George Trow who was one of the original founders and editors of “National Lampoon”. But when I checked my other copies from this period they were either addressed to George Trow or Tony Hiss (son of Alger) who was a friend and colleague of Trow, by way of the offices of various New York magazines. How the hell I came to have them I can’t explain, since I bought my “National Lampoon”s indiscriminately and en masse from ebay. But how wonderful to discover that I own copies that actually belonged to an original mover behind the magazine. It’d be even niftier to have a copy owned by Michael O’Donoghue or Doug Kenney, but since Trow was the only gay writer from the golden age of “National Lampoon”, it seems sort of appropriate. Trow is probably better remembered for several lengthy cultural essays he wrote for the “New Yorker in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, which are written in an abstruse, sometimes nearly psychotic manner. I find Trow a fascinating writer, since his attempts to reconcile his WASPy aspirations with his intense attraction to black culture and the lifestyle to be found in New York gossip columns and his repulsion by the predations of mass media on the mainstream consciousness means that there is an intensity and dislocation to his writing that is possibly unique.

I was going to write a bit more about Trow, but it seems to have got out of hand. So click here for more about this unusual man and his legacy.

I’ve previously posted something by Trow – this quasi-gay fashion magazine for the military service.


Unknown said...

It's been a lonnnnnng time since looking at the NL "Where the Weird Things Are" cartoon! That was GREAT!!

1972 and a projection of what things would eventually end up to be (and area) as shown in the last couple of frames.

Happy ethereal 85th to Sendak and thanks for posting this take-off from 41 years ago.

ramonesfan said...

Last couple of panels of the cartoon are the Weathermen, Altamont, and Charlie Manson all rolled into one. As they used to proudly say at Nat Lamp "that's not funny, that's sick!"