Insomnia Meets Cartoons

What about doing it, if not on the beach, then in bed? Reading that is—it seems nowadays the only time I find to read is when I stumble (an exaggeration, but not by much) up the narrow backstairs to my bedroom. Less than two feet away from my bed, several shelves line a brick wall. At three a.m. I grab a magazine from the stacks and stacks of New Yorkers. Why can’t I throw a New Yorker away? Am I deluding myself into thinking I’m going to read them sometime? But I do read them, not cover to cover, but pieces of interest and then of non-interest that my frequent insomnia makes palpable. But it’s the cartoons that insomnia loves best of all and especially the cartoon “in need of a caption.”



I stare at ‘this week’s contest’ cartoon. I struggle to think of a funny line to match the visual. It seems that I do not have that synapse in my brain—the one-liner laugh part of the brain. I don’t have it. I’d like to meet someone who thinks like one of these cartoons in their everyday lives. Not too much but just enough irony and the absurd combined with a slice of reality. A friend observed that it’s mostly guys who place in the finalists and a guy who snags the “winning caption.” Not sure if her theory can be statistically proven. No matter. This is not about gender bias, but about cartoons and insomnia.

I was first introduced to New Yorker cartoons by my mother, an emotionally unstable, beautiful and religion-obsessed woman from the Mississippi Delta who had not an ounce of irony and yet she bought an expensive (we didn’t have much money) hardback coffee table book of New Yorker cartoons spanning several decades.

She brought this wonderfully exotic ironic strange breed of cartoons into our cramped fundamentalist Memphis home in the Fifties. And come to think of it she had insomnia—lying awake all night, mind racing, believing that God had laid a revelation on her heart, a revelation that the rest of us dreaded.

Not sure if any of the mother stuff has a connection, but I just don’t see her laughing, much less “getting” a New Yorker cartoon. But maybe she was thinking up winning captions all along and we didn’t get it. And now I have to face the dilemma of whether I can laugh and sleep at the same time.


–Trudy Hale, Editor

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