Words on the Street: A timeless holiday classic

cover of Words on the StreetYes, that’s right. Nothing says “Joyeux Noël” better than a collection of sayings from an embittered, wise-cracking homeless guy on the streets of New York City. Imagine the pathos of Tiny Tim combined with the misanthropy of Ebenezer Scrooge (and perhaps a soupçon of bad-assery from the Artful Dodger).

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it — you can simply browse the Words on the Street archives here at Via Negativa (where I recently took an afternoon to go through and restore the old cartoons that had long ago vanished from the servers of their original host, because I am a librarian’s son and I believe in archiving everything forever). All the cartoons that my publisher and I selected were re-lettered for the book, at a much larger size and higher quality than what I posted here. A significant number of Diogenes’ comments were re-written, and a couple are brand-new. I even re-drew the sketch especially for the book.

Knowing of its relevance to the holidays — especially to the holiday shopping season — my publisher and I strove mightily to get it done in time for Christmas last year, but ran into unanticipated technical difficulties, so it didn’t appear until January. You can order the print version (£9.99/$17.47) directly from the printer, Lulu.com, and 100% of the profits will go to support the upkeep of this website.

The introduction is by Kaspalita Thompson, because frankly, if you can’t trust the word of a ukulele-playing Pureland Buddhist priest, you’ve got a hole in your soul, my friend. He writes:

Bonta’s words are given another layer of meaning by their fixed context, the unchanging homeless character whose placard they grace. “Friend Me” takes on a completely different significance seen here, as opposed to on one’s favorite social networking site.

Each page I flick to raises a smile and then asks me to come back to it and think, and then to think again. In this book Dave moves towards cementing his reputation as satirist and as an important contemporary gadfly.

Now, the “important” part might seem like a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t have to be. If you buy a copy for everyone on your list, and they buy copies for everyone on their lists, and so on, not only will this “inaction comic” be granted automatic cultural relevance by the capitalist arbiters of taste, but even the part about a timeless holiday classic might come true. A Christmas miracle! And my publisher, my blog and I will be able to afford a much-needed, rejuvenating holiday strategy session in Aruba.