Backing Into Forward
Written by Jules Feiffer
Published by Doubleday
Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s memoir is not a cartoon. There’s not much else wrong with it, however.
Although the narrative focuses primarily on his professional life, Rhoda Feiffer, Jules’ mother, shaped much of his career and personal life – by virtue of her overbearing, uncompromising manner. Most of us have, directly or indirectly, a Rhoda Feiffer, and will relate to the comical pressures on young Jules. Feiffer shares many hilarious anecdotes of writing theatre, fighting for pay at the Village Voice, and learning to cartoon on Uncle Sam’s dime. Although he rambles on in a few places, most of the tales remain to-the-point, keeping the reader focused on the tale at hand.
Feiffer drops many names, which is the province of a memoir if you have names to drop. The book’s core centers on his career as a cartoonist and writer, but his creativity is constantly influenced by issues in his personal life, so Feiffer is compelled to share tidbits about his children (particularly when he gets into his work in children’s books – oh, the drama of one child having a book about her and not another!) and marriages from time to time. All told, it’s an engagingly written, very humorous look at the life of one of our most important cartoonists, a man who seemed to find many opportunities accidentally, yet always possessed the wit and creativity to take advantage of those open doors.