...Each time Ed had another encounter with his “pal, the surgeon”—whom he did not begrudge for having “to maintain his skills”—he’d promise to quickly “be back with fervor at the drawing board, conjuring up malevolent, wicked delights and
pleasures for your eyes.” And sure enough, his shaggy Vermonters and Manhattanites, his farmers’-market devotees and NPR donors—by way of Snuffleupagus by way of Daumier—whose pretensions and obsessions he affectionately lampooned, would
soon be parading into my in-box. In his final months, he didn’t have the energy to draw as large, or with such obsessive, scratchy detail, as before, but he still couldn’t resist reworking one final cartoon—featuring the Grim Reaper, as a poet—
before sending it off to me last week.
In May, 1962, The New Yorker made the excellent choice to accept its very first Koren cartoon: a bedraggled writer, laboring at a typewriter, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “SHAKESPEARE.” Despite the success that followed—when “
Star Wars” came out, the Washington Post likened its alien cantina drinkers to “an Edward Koren cartoon . . . sprung to life”—one sensed that Ed returned to the drawing board prepared to go twelve rounds with the Muses. Send a kind word, and
he’d likely respond with something like “The pencil is encouraged and will now run on the paper until it has accomplished its always uncertain path.” It’s terrible to think that the pencil is now laid down.
On a recent call with Ed, when I expressed awe at the fact that he was still sending in cartoons for me to review, he quoted Mark Twain: “The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow.” Neither of us mentioned the second half of that line—
“there is no humor in heaven.” For believers, there’s certainly now no need to mention it ever again, what with Ed’s arrival. ♦
Edward Koren, 87, Whose Cartoon Creatures Poked Fun at People, Dies
For six decades in The New Yorker and elsewhere, his hairy, toothy, long-nosed characters offered witty commentary on the foibles of the American middle class.
By Robert D. McFadden
Robert McFadden interviewed Edward Koren for this obituary in 2018
April 14, 2023
Edward Koren, the New Yorker cartoonist who created a fantasy world of toothy, long-nosed, hairy creatures of indeterminate species that articulated the neuroses and banalities of middle-class America for six decades, died on Friday at his home in
Brookfield, Vt. He was 87.
His wife, Curtis Koren, said the cause was lung cancer.
In the gentle, affable kingdom of Koren, the beasts form a polite queue in the woods at a 24-hour banking A.T.M. attached to a tree. They line up to board Noah’s Ark, but must pass through security-gate metal detectors. And as smiling cockroaches, they
cluster like tourists with a city skyline in the backdrop. One takes a group selfie.
With Charles Addams, James Thurber and Saul Steinberg, Mr. Koren was one of the most popular cartoonists in The New Yorker’s long love affair with humor. To connoisseurs, his bristling pen-and-ink characters, with or without captions, were instantly
recognizable — nonconfrontational humans and a blend of fanged crocodile and antlered reindeer who poked fun at a society preoccupied with fitness fads (bike-riding), electronic gadgets (cellphones) and pop psychology.
In a bed for three, a grimacing psychiatrist squeezed between battling spouses takes “couples therapy” notes.
Wife to husband amid a debris of smashed furniture: “I think it’s wonderful to be so direct with your anger.”
Two bohemian couples enjoying drinks in a book-lined living room. Looming over them is the elephantine resident beast. “We deal with it by talking about it,” the hostess confides.
The only child of a New York dentist and a teacher who subscribed to Reader’s Digest and National Geographic, Mr. Koren studied art in New York and Paris, struggled for years to create a unique style, and found it hiding in plain sight: the subtle
humor of life’s contradictions...
"Brookfield, Vermont resident Edward Koren will become Vermont's second cartoonist laureate on Thursday, February 27, 2014, when he will be recognized on the State House floor. Vermont is the only state that regularly appoints a cartoonist laureate..."