A Dance to Himself: Jules Feiffer's Backing Into Forward

The longtime Village Voice cartoonist looks back on a life of pen and ink

Illusions popped, plus Lauren Bacall gossip: at work in 1958
Dick DeMarsico
Illusions popped, plus Lauren Bacall gossip: at work in 1958

"Have you noticed my cartoon voice is more ambivalent than my writer's voice?" a cartooned Feiffer asks at the book's end. Maybe. Or you could say that his pictures and words work in complex harmony, yielding more layers of insight and pleasure. (His comics are being reissued now by Fantagraphics and hold up remarkably well. Backing Into Forward is also generously illustrated with early Feiffer cartoons, along with family photos and juvenilia.) In writing, he's occasionally cranky, especially when he's complaining about bad reviews of his plays, and often too reticent, especially about his own two marriages. Still, Backing Into Forward is a fine companion to his art. It's also an illuminating book about the creative process, an entertaining read, and a cautionary tale about an era that really doesn't deserve a memorial.

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