Those of you who have visited this blog from its inception—eight months ago or so—will remember that the illustrations used here-in are borrowed, as it were, from a selection of web sites that seem to exist for no other reason than to lend out images. My favorite is “Old Book Illustrations,” an extensive and eclectic collection of art that has graced the pages of classic literature for at least three centuries. They are the sort of supplemental pleasures that readers enjoyed during the glory days of publishing. They could be found in everything from books for children—Beatrix Potter’s delightful works, for instance—to somewhat heavier stuff—e.g., Dante’s and Cervantes’ epic visions.
Some of these illustrations are so intricate and involved, they take your breath away. Others are grotesque and dark, and you shudder at the imaginations that produced them. Others still are so playful and lively, they make you wish you had lived in those reading environs long before the sterility of Kindle and the cheapness of self-publishing.
For the early postings in Mr. Cope’s Cave, I would go to this site and search for an illustration or two I thought might appropriately accompany whatever I had written, but I would end up so engrossed in the selection, I’d spend hours squirreling away pictures I could, at the time, only hope I might use at some later date. I have maybe a couple of hundred now, tucked away in a folder on my desktop. Some are intricate and involved, some are grotesque and dark, and many—probably most—are playful and lively. I favored the playful and lively examples because, at the time, I wanted this blog to be playful and lively.
Let me show you a few I haven’t used:
Yes, I started this blog hoping the general tone would be more in the nature of these pictures. Not that I intended to write about kittens in mittens having tea or pixies playing tag with frisky trout. But as far back as 1995 when I first started out in the Boise Weekly, I considered myself a political humorist, with the emphasis on humorist. And I believe now and have always believed: Humor is, by definition, light. Even black comedy is an effort to lighten up unfunny subject matter. If it’s unleavened heaviness you want, get thee to a Tragedy.
Now, here are illustrations I have actually used over the last several months:
Not much light-hearted in that gallery, is there? And that’s the thing: I can no longer think of myself as a humorist, political or otherwise. I’m confident you can guess why.
I admire and envy those witty people who can find some fun in the nastiness happening in, and to, our country. Without Colbert and Meyers, Bill Maher and Trevor Noah, the Saturday Night Live crew, Samantha Bee and The Onion and all the others who continue to squeeze laughs out of this rolling abomination, it would be intolerable. But I stopped finding anything funny about Trump the night I realized he wouldn’t be gone the next morning.
I suspect the largest part of it has to do with my age. Younger people, energetic people, will always have hope that bad morphs eventually to good. I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t have believed 35 years ago that it could get any worse than the Reagan Administration. Bush the Junior showed up and proved how wrong I was.
And now? … I can’t go so far as to say this pissy-fingered monstrosity makes me miss ‘W’, but at least I could joke about that buffoon.
With this buffoon? … all I can do is try to keep calm. And I am failing.
In short, what has happened to my outlook and attitude since November 8 has forced me to re-examine what I am doing here with Mr. Cope’s Cave and why I am doing it. I am considering a change. Nothing drastic, mind you. Just a few adjustments here and there. When I decide what they are, you’ll be the first to know.
In the meantime, keep this in mind: We need to keep ourselves healthy. We mustn’t let the beast do to us whatever was done to him. We can’t fight crazy with crazy.