Contraptions

Heath Robinson, Author, Geoffrey Beare, Editor . Duckworth Overlook $35 (192p) ISBN 978-1-58567-980-5

American readers will not recognize Robinson’s name, but he can best be explained as the British version of American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, a specialist in visualizing absurdly complex combinations of low-tech devices arranged to perform simple tasks. This was also the specialty of cartoonist and illustrator Robinson, who was born a decade earlier, in 1872. It seems that in Britain “a Heath Robertson contraption” means the same thing that a “Rube Goldberg machine” does in the States. Oddly, editor Geoffrey Beare never mentions Goldberg in his introduction; perhaps Goldberg is as unknown in the U.K. as Robinson is here. Beare points to Robinson’s skills as both artist and satirist. Robinson often depicts scenes from a low angle and gives them an epic scale, endowing his nonsensical machines with an ironic grandeur while mocking the indolence of the modern man, who would rather rely on gadgetry than perform a simple task himself. Through his cartoons Robinson conveys his own sheer joy in his amazing visual imagination. These cartoons are not laugh-out-loud funny, but are consistently inventive and amusing. The reader may find himself in the position of the black cat who turns up in numerous Robinson cartoons, quietly observing the follies of humanity, fascinated by them. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/29/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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