The New Yorker: Clever wins over compassion

Submitted by Ed Morrison on Mon, 02/27/2006 - 22:13.

For several years, I worked and lived in Louisiana, so I still keep touch with friends. Lou Burnett, an old newspaper man, writes an excellent newsletter on what is happening, especially in the northwest part of the state, around Shreveport.

In the most recent issue of his newsletter, he prints a commentary by noted artist Bill Joyce, a Shreverpot native. Joyce is somewhat of an pop icon in Louisiana. He is an author and illustrator who works frequently with Disney.

Joyce writes:

I was asked some months back to do a New Yorker Cover depicting some aspect of how New Orleans was dealing with Mardi Gras in the post-Katrina world.

I’ve done occasional covers for the New Yorker since 1994, and since I am a native Louisianian and still live here they hoped I’d have an informed perspective on the tragedy and its aftermath.

My schedule has been crazed. The movie business demands all you've got and more. But this was a labor of love and something I felt I had to do.

Coming up with a concept that tempered my rage with some hope was not easy, but I got inspiration from an old photograph of Mardi Gras in the ‘30's by J. Guttman, called the “The Game.” It's a wonderful, eerie image of New Orleans and its curious magic.

The editors were very pleased with the results. The proof looked great. Some friends cried when I showed it to them. The image did what I’d hoped. It made people from here sad and proud at the same time. I was hoping it would, I don't know, somehow help. Help call attention to our plight. Help people understand us.

Then Dick Cheney shot his friend instead of a bird.

A more topical cover was cobbled together. A clever twist on Cheney's folly. I’ve had covers at the New Yorker bumped before. That's just part of the game. But this one really mattered. The hurricanes have turned the people of Louisiana into activists.

We no longer have the luxury of emotional distance with this story. Louisiana had received its share of coverage lately I was told. They tried to find a place for it inside the magazine. Everyone said they were sympathetic. But nothing happened.

So we’ve been shunted aside again.

Our collective sorrow and tragedy mattered less than a single hunting accident. I really had hoped that compassion would win out over clever.

Mr. Cheney's friend is thankfully alive. Meanwhile we’re still finding bodies in New Orleans.

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