Thursday, December 22, 2011

kliban's Cattitude

This picture, the last on our 2011 calendar, has always been one of my favorites. Cat is alone but content skating figure eights under a clear nighttime sky with the promise of light and warmth in the near distance. You can call me sentimental but that was in truth a rarity for Kliban during his life.

The Cat illustrations were for him doodles he made when he was attempting to realize one of the more bizarre and ironic images that appeared most often in Playboy magazine. (Don't worry, we didn't read it, just looked at the pictures.) He routinely savaged sacred cows, apparently staying up nights on end to see just how far he could force an idea that would still be interpretable to the rest of us. The results, as he incited philosophers to loot small towns and pretty women to fix their makeup in the mirror of a blind man's dark glasses were always fascinating, darkly funny and never comforting.

It seems to me that such a gifted artist, one who struggled with the perceptions coming from the dark side of his psyche, was very involved in uncovering essential truths about our plight as human beings. Another favorite of his cartoons shows a fakir settling down on a bed of nails while saying, 'It only hurts when I exist.' When Kliban died in 1990, a great many people never realized the world had lost a twisted and irreplaceable visionary.

Perhaps you're already familiar with his 'other than Cat' cartoons and you may even own a copy of 'Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head' or 'The Biggest Tongue In Tunisia'. They are wonderfully irreverent and well worth your attention if you haven't seen them for a while. Yet I still get the feeling that even though he dismissed the Cat drawings, refusing to be interviewed about them even after they became wildly popular, that in them he'd found a universal truth. There's a poignant and transcendent quality to them that speaks of finding light even in the deepest dark.

I was relieved to get our 2012 Kliban cat calendar in the mail a few days ago. Yes, there are many other calendars out there - probably too many - but if you need to have a selection of rambling, playful, hedonistic, and somewhat sadistic cat images on your kitchen wall to make the place seem like home then nothing else will do.

Happy Solstice.


  1. That is a lively image of Cat skating. I must confess I've not been aware of Kliban so this is quite fascinating. I looked at several of the image links but will have to come back to the rest later. Yes, some are rather macabre but hit at truths as the best editorial type cartoons do. Thanks for introducing his owrk to me.

    And Happy Solstice to you!

  2. Wonderful! I have not come across this cartoonist before. I must check out more. I love the cat!

  3. Kliban! what a great post.... still chuckling& stuff.

    all best through da Hollydayz, OK!

  4. I love Kliban Cats - and thanks for the rest of that post. A happy new year to you, yours and Crow.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  5. I adore the skating can one not?

    Have a wonderful holiday, my dear susan! I have been thinking of you, hoping you are enjoying your day. xoxo

  6. The kids had Kliban Cats when they were little. They are quite collectible now I think. Like most creative spirits he was twisted, which is what makes them so interesting if you ask me.

    And Merry Solstice to you and yours! :)

  7. marja-leena - He is a very nice cat, isn't he? This picture always reminds me of our little house by the lake in Ontario.

    jams - I'm glad to have made the introduction.

    randal - You were too young at the time for reading it.

    okjimm - Glad you liked it. I meant to do a Christmas post but never got back to it.

    ol'buzzard - When we finally got our Cat calendar the time just seemed right to remember Kliban. I hope you've had a good Christmas and Happy New Year to you too.

    linda - Isn't he sweet? I hope you're having a good holiday too, my friend.

    laikin - The three of us were once given matching Kliban Cat nightgowns for Christmas. There's a picture somewhere of us wearing them ..

    A very Happy Christmas to you Lib and all the best wishes for a brand new season in your life.

  8. A great delight, this post! I roared watching the video. And I do love this cat skating. I actually am not familiar with his work or the cat cartoons, which is weird because I seek out cat art. Better late than never to find these....thank you! ^.^

  9. Happy Solstice to you, dear Susan!

  10. Sweet Susan, I wanted to let you know I received your lovely holiday card and wanted to thank you for how thoughtful and kind you are. I will respond by mail and in this fashion you will have my new address :)

  11. Hi Susan- I trust you’re well.
    It hardly seems possible another Christmas has passed and I look forward to hearing more about your past and present interests in the year ahead.
    I haven’t herd much about B. Kliban whose cats remain popular culture but who I gather also was featured in The New Yorker and Punch apart from a preference for unfettered license to publish material in playboy that could be considered both bizarre poignant and surreal. As you mentioned an interesting character.

    Liked your other posts and the picture of the mighty train – rail still is attractive and one of the most efficient and less wasteful modes of transport isn’t it?
    Best wishes

  12. lydia - I'm glad I got to introduce you to Kliban and especially, his Cats. I know you'd enjoy the calendars.

    gina - Thank you, my friend, and happy New Year to you.

    laikin - I'm so glad it did arrive. I look forward to having your new address :-)

    lindsay - I'm very glad to see you've been by to visit and I'll look forward to reading more of your own fine posts in the coming year. Yes, rail travel does make the most sense and I'm hoping this becomes a more common view in the near future.

    All the very best for the New Year.

  13. Thanks for the history and review lesson. Stuff I didn't know. Really gald you're a sadist, (Makes you more like the Spado clan than you know). We have R. Crumb on our kitchen wall. Not a calendar, but a cartoon about Mr. Natural Does the Dishes
    By the way, what happened to all the drawings and paintings you had on yer blog? Did I miss some kind of catastrophe? Anyway, have a great New Year with you cat calendar. I'm waiting for someone to send me Tiger Lee's Pirate Babes for 2012.