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Cartoonist Liza Donnelly has said that her goal is “to write and draw in a way that makes people laugh and think.” With her new book, Women on Men, a collection of cartoons about what goes on between the sexes (and, occasionally, between the sheets) she’s done just that.  

Donnelly—a New Yorker staff cartoonist with more than a dozen books in print, who has been married to fellow cartoonist Michael Maslin for close to two decades—has both the life experience and the cartoon chops to take on this enticing topic. 

The collection is divided into chapters like “Let‘s Get to Goodbye“ (dating) and “The Idiot I Married” (matrimony), each of which begins with an on-topic riff in the cartoonist’s own handwriting, giving the book the fun and informal vibe of a good pal dropping you a line.     

The cover art sets the tone.  Just two faces, one male and one female. The woman, who is (naturally) on top, looks down at her partner, happy and confident, as he, underneath, gazes up at her, intrigued. 

The women in this book are empowered. Strong, sharp, and funny, they’re fully capable of expressing (or defending) themselves with a wisecrack. But they’re caring and vulnerable too.   

 

They endure the nightmare that is dating:

do not call list© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

But, undaunted, they continue to look for love:  

enigmas© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

They often come up short in their search for Mr. Right:

180© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

Married life is often bliss. Other times, not so much. 

almost_finished© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

And let‘s not forget the topic of divorce.

 that_idiot_I_married© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

Although there’s plenty of frustration and hostility on these pages, the tone throughout remains friendly. Gently mocking. Nothing over the top or out of control. These are civilized people. Everyone has excellent manners. And Donnelly pokes as much fun at herself and as at the men in her life. 

You could criticize  Women on Men for its lack of diversity. These are all well-educated, high-earning New Yorkers, hanging out in nice apartments and going to cocktail parties. But let’s be realistic. Donnelly cartoons for upscale venues like The New Yorker and Forbes. This is her beat, and she covers it well.  It works because she tracks her own experience with wit and honesty.   

And Donnelly herself is well aware of the world beyond her own community. She’s both a charter member of “Cartooning for Peace” and the founder of WorldInk.org, a showcase for political art from around the globe, and she travels the world as a cultural envoy for the U.S. State Department.  

My own favorite Donnelly cartoon is, unfortunately, not in the book.

LD_marriage_in_trouble© The New Yorker Magazine and Liza Donnelly

 

In Women on Men, Donnelly confides to the reader that she loves to dance but her husband does not, which means that when he popped the question, decades ago, she had to ask herself: “Do I like this guy more than I like going dancing?”

She decided to give up the dream of a dancing husband and say “yes” to the man she describes, in the book’ s dedication, as “my husband, friend, lover (and) muse.“  (Good call!)  Nevertheless, years later, via this cartoon, she’s given herself  (or at least her alter ego) that dancing husband after all.

It’s an intriguing glimpse into how the creative process works. And a great way for a funny woman to get the last laugh.