When I was a kid, R. O. Blechman’s talking stomach–the spokestummy for Alka-Seltzer (below)–was airing on every national TV network. It was that hilariously unprecedented animated character that made me want to be a cartoonist and animator. Decades have passed and I’ve never animated anything, but I still admire Blechman’s masterful squiggly nervous line. I have every one of his books and am always happy watching his classic animations.
Now, there is a new Blechman book to savor. Talking Lines (see cover above) is his first comprehensive short story collection. These published and unpublished squiggly tales cover such topics as nuclear weapons, war, wiretapping, Christopher Columbus, Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf (the last of which he did for me at the New York Times Book Review). Other stories appeared in Humbug (edited by Harvey Kurtzman), The Nation, and Nozone (edited by his son, Nicholas Blechman). All his books are a joy, but the bottom line: This one is exceptional.