Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bill Mauldin

We have a really interesting new biography on the shelves of the famous political cartoonist and bane to the rear echelon: Bill Mauldin. Todd DePastino has covered the entire tract of Maudlin's life in Bill Mauldin: a life up front, whereas many biographies focus mainly on his career during World War II. During the war, Mauldin was the unofficial spokesman of the enlisted guy in the foxhole, covered with mud and worn to a bone. His cartoons were a scathing commentary on unrealistic expectations, military regulations and the glorification of war. An infantry sergeant, Mauldin knew what the soldiers really experienced on a daily basis and refused to gloss over unpleasantries. In a way, his truthfulness and refusal to back down when confronting the brass actually helped boost morale among the soldiers (his encounter with an unadmiring General Patton made the Time magazine). It definitely made him a hero to the average G.I.
However, Mauldin's ability to skewer pretense and his determination to stand up for the little guy didn't stop when the war was over. His career as a cartoonist continued, earning him a second Pulitzer in 1958. His most memorable post-war cartoon, created on the occasion of President Kennedy's assassination, captured the feeling of the nation (pg. 285). The topics of his cartoons ranged from McCarthyism to Soviet gulags, the creation of the U.N. to the fight for civil rights, Vietnam to Chicago politics. The most prescient example in the book is on page 275 and concerns Arab nationalism. This is a fascinating book about a man who deserves to be remembered.


Lake Mills Library said...

Mauldin had a neat autobiography/commentary book he published in 1946 or so. That was an interesting and relevant read because he had a lot to say about veterans issues.

His massive success as a war cartoonist had him momentarily pigeonholed and he had to work to get accepted as "current affairs" guy.

I forgot the title. You can look it up, you're in a library.

Rainbird librarian said...

You're right - the title was "Back Home". My father has a copy of this, and I remember reading it when I was a kid (actually, I think I just read the cartoons. Kinda like the New Yorker magazine).

Lake Mills Library said...

One I have waiting is "Brass Ring: a sort of memoir" from 1971. It came in as a donation and is too old to acquire so I got it from the Friends.