Very Fine Lines

An editor's-eye view of the New Yorker selection process: From left, Jacob Lewis, David Remnick and Bob Mankoff.
An editor's-eye view of the New Yorker selection process: From left, Jacob Lewis, David Remnick and Bob Mankoff. (By Bob Mankoff For The Washington Post)

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By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 24, 2006

Two plumbers working on a sink with an alligator coming out of the faucet?

Yes.

Two drunks brainstorming about starting the Drinking Network?

No.

A guy with his hand chopped off pointing the way to the Islamic court?

Ahhhhhh . . . maybe.

It's Wednesday afternoon and David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, is picking cartoons. A few minutes ago, Bob Mankoff, the magazine's cartoon editor, entered Remnick's office carrying three wire baskets and 81 cartoons. The baskets are labeled Yes, No and Maybe. The cartoons are the ones Mankoff chose from the nearly 1,000 he received since the previous Wednesday's meeting. Now, with the help of Managing Editor Jacob Lewis, Remnick will decide which ones the magazine will buy.

He picks a cartoon out of the pile. It's by Roz Chast, the New Yorker's queen of modern neurosis. This cartoon is a gallery of fictitious "Excuse Cards." Smiling in anticipation, Remnick starts reading.

"You know, some of these are not great," he says, sadly.

"I like the concept of it," says Lewis.

"I'm not sure this is working," Remnick says and the cartoon goes into the No basket.

He picks up the next cartoon. It's another Chast: a mock front page of a tabloid newspaper, the "Arctic Enquirer," with headlines about salacious doings in Santa's workshop.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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