Decades of political cartoons in Simont's book
CORNWALL â€” Marc Simont, with help from a list of Cornwall friends experienced in editing and publishing, has chronicled decades of world discord between the soft covers of his new book, â€œThe Beautiful Planet, Ours to Lose.â€
The pages are filled, mostly, with his political cartoons and some succinct bits of text.
Simontâ€™s work has been published in many books before. His drawings illustrate â€œThe 13 Clocks,â€ the last work by James Thurber (Simontâ€™s former neighbor in Cornwall), the entire series of Nate the Great childrenâ€™s books and a recent book that he wrote and illustrated, â€œThe Stray Dog.â€
This new book is less whimsical and features politically oriented cartoons, many of which first appeared on the viewpoint page of The Lakeville Journal. The collection begins, curiously, with a drawing of the Heisman Trophy. Simont explains in the book that West Point cadet and 1958 Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins said at his graduation, â€œThe war is the big game, Vietnam is the stadium, and I want to be in it.â€
Simont, who was born in France in 1915, is horrified at this countryâ€™s attitude toward war.
â€œFor the U.S., wars have been like away games of football with emphasis on high-tech weaponry delivered from the air,â€ Simont writes in the book. And, he notes, that there is no home game advantage in war.
From there, the book moves on to Vice President Richard Nixon saying, â€œLetâ€™s bomb North Vietnam,â€ while a comic book-reading Eisenhower tells him to shut up.
Simontâ€™s cartoons are sometimes subtly sardonic as they mark conflicts, police actions and hostilities (â€œcall war what you likeâ€) over the decades. He likes to depict world leaders as banana-eating monkeys. The sketches can express the artistâ€™s obvious rage, punctuated by angry charcoal slashes.
That rage can be a shock to those who know Simont as a gentle, humorous man. But even at the age of 94, he continues to keep a close and often contemptuous eye on world affairs. More than a few of his cartoons have brought letters to the editor from outraged readers. Mission accomplished.
A completely different set of fans has been beguiled by Simontâ€™s award-winning childrenâ€™s book illustrations. He has been able to protect his gentle persona in large part because he has found such an effective way to vent his frustrations with world rulers whose answer to any problem always seems to be to go to war.
â€œI started sending drawings to The Lakeville Journal during the Eisenhower years. But not every issue,â€ Simont said, when asked how many cartoons he has stacked up in his studio. â€œIt turned out to be not that big a task to go through them and find drawings for each era or war.
â€œWhen I thought of the book idea,â€ he quipped, â€œwhat I liked best about it was realizing it was mostly done.â€
The bookâ€™s last passage is thought provoking, as it was meant to be. An â€œimplied threat,â€ he calls it. In just three paragraphs, Simont paints a picture of the horror of nuclear destruction, followed by a second chance at life. But it wonâ€™t be human life.
Cornwall resident and law professor Norman Dorsen wrote the preface, aptly describing the book as a â€œchronicle of tragic-comedy,â€ and warns that it is â€œno collection for the unengaged.â€
Simont dedicated â€œThe Beautiful Planetâ€ to his wife, Bee, â€œwho sees that I take my pills and stay on track in whatever I do.â€
Simont will sign copies of his book Saturday, Feb. 13, 4 to 6 p.m. at The Wish House in West Cornwall. Half of the proceeds will be donated to the Cornwall Library.