Home » Decades of political cartoons in Simont's book

Decades of political cartoons in Simont's book

CORNWALL — 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, “The Beautiful Planet, Ours to Lose.”

The pages are filled, mostly, with his political cartoons and some succinct bits of text.

Simont’s work has been published in many books before. His drawings illustrate “The 13 Clocks,” the last work by James Thurber (Simont’s former neighbor in Cornwall), the entire series of Nate the Great children’s books and a recent book that he wrote and illustrated, “The Stray Dog.”

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, “The war is the big game, Vietnam is the stadium, and I want to be in it.”

Simont, who was born in France in 1915, is horrified at this country’s attitude toward war.

“For the U.S., wars have been like away games of football with emphasis on high-tech weaponry delivered from the air,” 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, “Let’s bomb North Vietnam,” while a comic book-reading Eisenhower tells him to shut up.

Simont’s cartoons are sometimes subtly sardonic as they mark conflicts, police actions and hostilities (“call war what you like”) over the decades. He likes to depict world leaders as banana-eating monkeys. The sketches can express the artist’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 Simont’s award-winning children’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.

“I started sending drawings to The Lakeville Journal during the Eisenhower years. But not every issue,” Simont said, when asked how many cartoons he has stacked up in his studio. “It turned out to be not that big a task to go through them and find drawings for each era or war.

“When I thought of the book idea,” he quipped, “what I liked best about it was realizing it was mostly done.”

The book’s last passage is thought provoking, as it was meant to be. An “implied threat,” 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 won’t be human life.

Cornwall resident and law professor Norman Dorsen wrote the preface, aptly describing the book as a “chronicle of tragic-comedy,” and warns that it is “no collection for the unengaged.”

Simont dedicated “The Beautiful Planet” to his wife, Bee, “who sees that I take my pills and stay on track in whatever I do.”

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.

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