The incredible, wild life of Peter Arno, the fabled cartoonist whose racy satire and bold visuals became the unforgiving mirror of his times and the foundation of the New Yorker cartoon.
In the summer of 1925, The New Yorker was struggling to survive its first year in print. They took a chance on a young, indecorous cartoonist who was about to give up his career as an artist. His name was Peter Arno, and his witty social commentary, blush-inducing content, and compositional mastery brought a cosmopolitan edge to the magazine’s pages—a vitality that would soon cement The New Yorker as one of the world’s most celebrated publications.
Alongside New Yorker luminaries such as E.B. White, James Thurber, and founding editor Harold Ross, Arno is one of the select few who made the magazine the cultural touchstone it is today. In this intimate biography of one of The New Yorker’s first geniuses, Michael Maslin dives into Arno’s rocky relationship with the magazine, his fiery marriage to the columnist Lois Long, and his tabloid-cover altercations involving pistols, fists, and barely-legal debutantes. Maslin invites us inside the Roaring Twenties’ cultural swirl known as Café Society, in which Arno was an insider and observant outsider, both fascinated and repulsed by America’s swelling concept of “celebrity.”
Through a nuanced constellation of Arno’s most defining experiences and escapades that inspired his work in the pages of The New Yorker, Maslin explores the formative years of the publication and its iconic cartoon tradition. In tandem, he traces the shifting gradations of Arno’s brushstrokes and characters over the decades—all in light of the cultural upheavals that informed Arno’s sardonic humor.
In this first-ever portrait of America’s seminal cartoonist, we finally come eye-to-eye with the irreverent spirit at the core of theNewYorker cartoon—a genre in itself—and leave with no doubt as to how and why this genre came to be embraced by the masses as a timeless reflection of ourselves.
"Dazzling, well-illustrated . . . Arno's story is told with skill and flair."
— Peter Torquette, The Christian Science Monitor
"Maslin, himself a longtime contributor of cartoons to the magazine . . . writes . . . enthusiastically . . . about the workings of a magazine that is . . . a critically important cultural institution." —Kirkus Reviews
"Who better to tell the story of the legendary New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno than another legendary New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin? And what a delight to discover that Maslin's gift for writing equals his talent for drawing. From start to finish, this is book is masterful and unforgettable."
—Andy Borowitz, New York Times-bestselling author and New Yorker columnist
"Maslin's riveting biography is—surprisingly—the first on the rakish genius, who arguably shaped the look of the weekly magazine . . . Maslin fills the book with insights into the cartoonist's life and art."
“Peter Arno was one of the greatest artists in the history of The New Yorker. He was a master draftsman, a bon vivant, and a witty, observant chronicler of his era: the 1930s New York world of sugar daddies, bejeweled grande dames, young beauties on the make, fashionable people, drunken aristocrats, and artists. Maslin’s wonderful and deeply researched biography of this complicated, gifted man is absorbing and enlightening.”
—Roz Chast, author of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
“For decades, astonishingly little was known about the life of Peter Arno, The New Yorker’s premier cartoonist. Happily, Michael Maslin has filled this gap. He has given us a gold mine of material, conveyed with the insight and sure touch of a skilled biographer. Those who have enjoyed Arno’s clubmen and flappers, his rakes and the Whoops Sisters, will love this all-revealing study. Fans of The New Yorker in general will, too. I was delighted and enlightened from start to finish.”
—Thomas Vinciguerra, author of Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker
"In this comprehensive biography, Maslin . . . captures the spirit of Arno’s life and achievements."
—Donna Marie Smith, Library Journal Reviews
"I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book — it's fascinating . . . A beautifully written account."