Sunday, October 04, 2009

Does 'Doonesbury' Matter Anymore?

William Klein:

Garry Trudeau should, of course, be free to continue Doonesbury as a daily strip as long as he wants to. If he gives up the space, no doubt Glenn Beck or Bono will take up cartooning. But Garry, isn't there a novel you've always wanted to write? Screenplays? Maybe a Senate run?

Personally I find Doonesbury basically unreadable (you have to read the strip every day for it to make sense, and who has the time for that? plus all the characters look the same to me -- am I a cartoon racist?)... but so what? Trudeau's conjured world is a unique document of three and a half decades of political history, a kind of Yoknapatawpha of the imagination that is only appreciable in its sprawling totality. But it is also only appreciable in the context of a particular highly mannered medium, that is to say the four-panel comic strip -- and it's the combination of a narrow medium and a broad canvas of social and political history that gives Doonesbury its importance as one of the supreme artifacts of cynical, ironic, middle-brow, post-Watergate American liberalism. Asking Trudeau -- without whom, arguably, there would be no Jon Stewart -- to stop cartooning would be like asking Woody Allen to stop making movies, or Harold Bloom to stop editing anthologies, or asking Roland Hedley to keep his tweets under 140 characters.