Episode 193 – Ed Koren

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Virtual Memories Show #193: Ed Koren

“I’ve mined this little world that may or may not be exclusive to me, but it’s something that I’m interested in: the interface between country and city, between older and younger, between lifestyles. It’s an emotional and intellectual world I like probing.”

Ed Koren‘s cartoons and covers have graced The New Yorker for more than 50 years, so it was honor to record with him during CXC about his career, his perspective on generations of cartoonists, the development of his unique style (he has a good answer to my question, “Why so hairy?”), the persistence of his middle-class work ethic, his first encounter with the Undergrounds, his lithography “uptown” art, the advantages of having small ambitions, and more! Give it a listen!

“I still take enormous delight in starting and finishing and going through the uncharted seas of getting from here to there. There’s no map to get from an idea to a final culmination. (That’s what Dorothy Parker called single-panel cartoons: culminations.)”

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Well also talk about why he avoids Look Day, why he left NY for the country, the challenges of satire, the significance of The New Yorker in his household, the influence of Alley Oop and the Schmoo on his work, the shrinking economics of cartooning, his “ah, animals!” moment, his interest in long novels and single-panel comics, what he had to learn and what was innate, the benefits of being an outsider, and why he pined to join the Columbus Marathon outside our hotel. Now go listen to the show!

“I keep learning new things about color, and density, and structure. With each problem that I have to deal with comes and epiphany: ‘This is how it works!’ It may be self-renewing, but each time I move ahead.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Edward Koren has long been associated with the The New Yorker magazine, where he has published over 1000 cartoons, as well as numerous covers and illustrations. He has also contributed to many other publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, G.Q., Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Fortune, Vanity Fair, The Nation and The Boston Globe. His illustrated books include How to Eat Like a Child, Teenage Romance and Do I Have to Say Hello (all by Delia Ephron), A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle, Pet Peeves by George Plimpton, and The New Legal Seafoods Cookbook by Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer. Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie was published in 2006, Oops by Alan Katz in 2008, How to Clean Your Room in 2010 and Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking by Alan Katz in 2011. He has also written and illustrated books for children, Behind the Wheel, and Very Hairy Harry. He has also published six collections of cartoons which first appeared in The New Yorker, the most recent being The Hard Work of Simple Living.

Born in New York City, Koren attended the Horace Mann School and Columbia University. He did graduate work in etching and engraving with S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris, and received an M.F.A. degree from Pratt Institute. He was on the faculty of Brown University for many years.

Koren’s cartoons, drawing and prints have been widely exhibited in shows across the United States as well as in France, England and Czechoslovakia. He has exhibited at the Middlebury College Museum of Art, the Washington Art Association, Terry Dintenfass Gallery, the Virginia Lynch Gallery, The Luise Ross Gallery, and Big Town Gallery. His work is also in the permanent collections of the Fogg Museum, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Princeton University Museum, The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University, and in the Swann Collection at the Library of Congress. A major retrospective of his work was shown at Columbia University’s Wallach Gallery in 2010, and at the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum in the summer of 2011.

Edward Koren has received a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Union College, and been a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He was Distinguished Visitor at The American Academy in Berlin, Germany in 2003.In 2007 he received The Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. He has been a member of the Brookfield, VT Volunteer Fire Department for 24 years. He lives in Vermont with his family.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Westin Columbus 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. Koren by me.

Podcast: Visible Cities

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 8 – Visible Cities

“My impulse is to break the windows of Starbucks, but I’d get arrested if I did that, so I make comics about people breaking the windows of Starbucks.”

Cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship winner Ben Katchor joins us for the first live episode of The Virtual Memories Show (in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium). Ben & host Gil Roth talk in front of — and take questions from — an audience of 50 or so about Ben’s career in cartooning, including his new book, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories (Pantheon), which collects his monthly comic page from Metropolis magazine. During the episode, Ben even performs several of his comics. If you’d like to see the comics themselves, you can download Manumission Houses and Lossless Things.

“People ask about influences and where I get my ideas. A lot of people looked at all the stuff I looked at, and they’re doing something else. It’s not like there’s an equation, like you read Saul Bellow and you look at Poussin, and then you make my comics. It’s not an equation. It’s brute force.”

The conversation and Q&A also cover his work process (with a surprising revelation about how he draws!), how book publishing lost its identity, what he learned from working in other art forms (like musical theater), how he teaches cartooning, the allure of new technologies, his one critical audience demographic, the joy of imperfections, whether he has an ideal era for New York, what happened to his History of the Dairy Restaurant book, how fear of shame keeps him productive, how Google can help when you need to draw a Russian prostitute, what he picked up from the Yiddish humor strips he read as a child, which one book the Library of America should withdraw, and how to pronounce “Knipl”! He didn’t win a “Genius” grant for nothing!

“It’s a golden age of art comics. It didn’t exist when I started. Most bookstores wouldn’t carry a comic, or even something that looked like a comic, back then. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young cartoonist now, when these things are taken seriously and there’s an audience for them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more great conversations!

Ben Katchor on The Virtual Memories Show

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About our Guest

Ben Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis magazine. His most recent collection of monthly strips, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, was published in March 2013 by Pantheon Books. Up From the Stacks, his most recent music-theater collaboration with Mark Mulcahy, was commissioned in 2011 by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and Lincoln Center and was performed at both venues. He is an Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City. For more information, visit www.katchor.com.

Credits: This episode’s music is Big City Blues by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. The conversation was recorded in the Bark Room at The New School in NYC on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. Mr. Katchor’s readings and some of the questions from the audience were recorded on a second Zoom H4n. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Amy Roth.