‘Cathy’ car­toon­ist re­turns to hu­mor writ­ing with her first book of es­says

The Day - - DAYBREAK - By MICHAEL CAVNA

When the iconic “Cathy” comic strip ended in the fall of 2010, the fi­nal panel bid farewell by in­tro­duc­ing a third gen­er­a­tion: Cathy an­nounced that she was preg­nant with a girl, and Cathy’s mother fell to her knees, cel­e­brat­ing the re­al­iza­tion she was be­com­ing a grandma.

In her own life at that time, car­toon­ist Cathy Guise­wite was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dif­fer­ent sort of cross-gen­er­a­tional mo­ment. Af­ter 34 years of cre­at­ing “Cathy,” she had de­cided it was time to de­vote all her en­er­gies to help­ing her own child and par­ents go through life tran­si­tions.

“When I stopped the comic strip, it was be­cause for once in my life, I wanted to re­ally (just) be car­ing for oth­ers,” Guise­wite tells The Wash­ing­ton Post by phone. “My daugh­ter was just start­ing her last year of high school. My par­ents were turn­ing 90. I wanted to be a full-time mother and daugh­ter — a lov­ing, benev­o­lent guide for them, in op­po­site di­rec­tions — guid­ing my daugh­ter to­ward adult­hood and guid­ing my par­ents to­ward the end of their lives.”

While meet­ing oth­ers’ needs, Guise­wite says, she also went as long as she could with­out do­ing any writ­ing. “And then,” she says, “I just felt like I was go­ing to ex­plode.”

“So I started writ­ing about the ex­pe­ri­ence of fly­ing back and forth across the coun­try” — be­tween her daugh­ter in Cal­i­for­nia and her par­ents in Florida — “kind of com­mut­ing be­tween gen­er­a­tions,” says the Reuben Award-win­ning car­toon­ist, who’s based in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Now, the cre­ative re­sult is Guise­wite’s de­but es­say col­lec­tion, “Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Re­flec­tions and Re­bel­lions From the Grown-Up Years” (G.P. Put­nam’s Sons), fea­tur­ing her hu­mor­ous, self-dep­re­cat­ing ob­ser­va­tions about life in tran­si­tion. The book is due out this fall.

Peo­ple “talk about the ‘sand­wich gen­er­a­tion,’” the car­toon­ist says. “It much more feels to me like the ‘panini gen­er­a­tion,’ where we’re squished be­tween them” — fac­ing the heat of re­spon­si­bil­ity from both sides while “try­ing to be a lov­ing guide,” yet still mak­ing time to meet some life-goal dead­lines and take “all those self­ies that no longer re­sem­ble my­self.”

Even though such mass events as last year’s in­au­gu­ral week­end Women’s March also in­spired Guise­wite’s writ­ing, this new book will be much more per­sonal than po­lit­i­cal.

“In the comic strip, I was just a daugh­ter,” Guise­wite says. “In this book, I write a lot about (tog­gling as) a mother-daugh­ter-mother-daugh­ter.”

Guise­wite’s hope for the book, which will fea­ture some of her spot il­lus­tra­tions, is that it will be the reader’s “com­pas­sion­ate com­pan­ion for the ‘grown-up years’ the same way the comic strip was for our younger years,” she says.

In other words, the au­thor says, the book is “part re­flec­tion on how the world has changed for women in the last four decades. Part frustration at what hasn’t changed. Part re­bel­lion against the many, many things that weren’t and aren’t our fault. Part an­noy­ance that the se­niors in the com­mer­cials are rein­vent­ing them­selves

so mean­ing­fully while I'm still work­ing on a ‘to-do' list from 1999.”

Plus, she adds: “Part ex­as­per­a­tion that, with all my em­pow­er­ment, all my wis­dom and ma­tu­rity, I still lose al­most ev­ery bat­tle with the frozen Girl Scout cook­ies.”

The car­toon­ist un­der­scores that the Trump-era po­lit­i­cal cli­mate only am­pli­fies the angst. “In this phase of life, it isn't only that ev­ery­thing in our per­sonal lives is chang­ing with­out our per­mis­sion, but that ev­ery­thing in the world sud­denly feels so un­set­tled and less se­cure,” says Guise­wite, who dur­ing the ‘70s wave of fem­i­nism be­came one of the few fe­male writer-artists at the time to enter into large main­stream comics syndication. (At its peak, “Cathy” was syn­di­cated to about 1,400 news­pa­pers.)

“No mat­ter which side of the pol­i­tics a per­son is on, the combo plat­ter of all of that works on us the same way,” she says of the tra­vails of this panini gen­er­a­tion. “The job of let­ting go and hang­ing on is wrench­ing. Watch­ing beloved touch­stones dis­ap­pear and know­ing we're next in line to not be here is scary. Try­ing to raise chil­dren when mod­ern life is so com­pli­cated is even scarier.”

“I want to help all women,” Guise­wite says. “None of us can take on what's ahead if we can't get through the next five min­utes with­out a lit­tle bit of hope and hu­mor.”

G.P. PUT­NAM’S SONS

From the forth­com­ing book “Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.