When caricature isn’t just a laughing matter

Death noted: David Levine, incomparable caricaturist for The New York Review of Books, at age 83 in New York. Levine was a personal hero of mine, especially for his work during the Watergate and Vietnam War eras — he may be most widely remembered for depicting LBJ pulling up his shirt to reveal a gallbladder scar in the shape of Vietnam.

Until macular degeneration degraded his output in recent years — a sad story indeed —  Levine’s unblinking eye and unerring hand captured the seriocomic essences of thousands of newsmakers past and present. Here are three examples from North Carolina:




‘Dances with Wolves’ meets Cherokee

“Christine [a student in Hofstra professor Douglas Brinkley’s experimental six-week cross-country history class] was disheartened. It wasn’t just Cherokee’s Santa Land, where in some weird equivalence Geronimo and Kris Kringle both hand out lollipops to the kids; or the collared black bear cubs in the pits behind Saunooke’s Trading Post, or the FIVE DOLLARS TO MEET A REAL INJUN sign that so dejected her, or even that people paid money to participate in such commerce.

“Some local Cherokee boys in Bugle Boy jeans, NBA basketball T-shirts and Nikes… brought home to her the extent of her Native American fantasies, and she was embarrassed. Fueled by ‘Dances with Wolves,’ she had envisioned the Cherokees as mighty warriors chanting sacred songs and swapping animal stories by a roaring fire. She wanted them to be riding horses, not driving Chevrolets. Instead… the young Cherokees on the reservation were no different from the kids back on Long Island.”

— From “The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey” (1993) by Douglas Brinkley