“I think philosophers are all frustrated cartoonists and cartoonists are all frustrated philosophers.”
With his new graphic biography The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury), Ken Krimstein combines his interests in comics, history and philosophy into a dream project. We talk about how he made the shift from “average NPR listener” to deep scholar of Hannah Arendt, teaching himself phenomenology in mid-life to balance story with philosophy, trying to understand the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger (and trying to understand Heidegger’s philosophy and whether it fed into his Nazism), seeing through Arendt’s eyes and taking solace from her philosophy, and how he got laughed at by other cartoonists when he told them he thought he could draw this 240-page book in 6-8 weeks. We also get into Ken’s history in comics and advertising, the alchemy of the New Yorker cartoon, how he learned about culture via Mad Magazine, his failed attempt to be Saul Bellow, the lesson that problem-finding is more important than problem-solving, the Chicago comics scene and the Evanston arts-mafia, what he misses about New York, and Saul Steinberg’s central role in art and comics for the 20th century and beyond. Give it a listen! And go buy The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt!
“When Walter Benjamin collects all the stuff for The Arcades Project, he’s just like all the collectors of old comic books. We look at the detritus, the scraps, and say, ‘This is what was really going on.'”
“You draw somebody 10,000 times, you get a sense for what their face is like, and their character.”
About our Guest
Ken Krimstein‘s cartoons have been published in the New Yorker, Barron’s, The Harvard Business Review, Prospect Magazine, Punch, The National Lampoon, the Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine, and three of S. Gross’s cartoon anthologies His humor writing has been in The New York Observer’s “New Yorker’s Diary” and humor websites, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Yankee Pot Roast, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. His series of graphic reporting appeared in The Chicago Tribune‘s “Printer’s Row” literary magazine. A book of his Jewish-themed cartoons, Kvetch As Kvetch Can, has been published by Random House/ Clarkson Potter. In addition to teaching at De Paul University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he is also an advertising creative director. His new book is The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury).
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ken’s friend Kathy’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Krimstein by me. It’s on my instagram.