Friday, January 1, 2010

David Levine Abides

Arguably, the greatest caricaturist of the second half of the twentieth century died the other day. His name was David Levine, and for over 40 years he most famously drew hundreds of cartoons for the New York Review of Books. Perhaps the most brilliant of them all was his rendering of LBJ displaying his gall bladder operation scar, something LBJ actually delighted in doing. But, of course, in Levine's version the scar is shown in the shape of Vietnam. Hard to imagine a picture doing a better job of expressing so much with so little.

There is another drawing by Levine which is similarly brilliant. It shows William F. Buckley in an almost perfect likeness but altered just enough to portray him at the same time as an innocent beaver. The beaver, as we know, is forever busy, mates for life, and derives great pleasure from damming up rivers and streams that eventually become his temporary abode, until he moves on to other similar obstructive projects. Which is pretty much how William F. Buckley made his living, when he wasn't writing those detective story potboilers of his. Oh, and for those who feel that this particular cartoon unfairly maligns beavers, hey, I'm with you, I'm very much with you.

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