“…in the dark recesses of my soul I will always be a high school dropout.” So writes Bruce McCall, cartoonist for the New Yorker in his essay about the failure that has haunted him all his life. (“Confessions of a High School Dropout,” by Bruce McCall, Town&Country, 8/13 pgs. 64-65.) Having come from a family where his father was a dropout, McCall by-passed the ivy halls of higher education and somehow managed to stumbled into a job as a copywriter for an advertising firm. From there, he sold a few of his cartoons — a pastime he’d begun as a boy of 11 – to the National Lampoon. They liked his quirky, outside-the-box humor and for a time, McCall thought he’d found a home. But in 1975, the magazine folded and he found himself floundering in a sophisticated world where he doubted he could play a part.
With his back to the wall, McCall did the unthinkable. Through his agent, he submitted work to the New Yorker and to his surprise, they wrote back, “Gee, we were wondering why you never sent us anything before.” So began McCall’s career with a cool and sophisticated magazine. The relationship has lasted 30-odd years. (Ibid, pg. 65.)
MacCall’s story is the American dream: a boy from the sticks, with no resources and little education, makes good in the Big Apple. But the story is more than that. McCall had a talent and a vision uniquely suited to the New Yorker. Had he sent his material to Ladies Home Journal, his experience might have been different. What’s more, he was fortunate enough to have had an agent. Most artists tromping around New York with their portfolios don’t. Their work lands in slush piles where it is usually never seen again.
Talent aside, McCall admits that his success came “by dint of blind luck and good fortune,” beginning with his foothold with the National Lampoon. (Ibid, pg. 65) For him, being in the right place at the right time made all the difference. Hard work is a requirement for success but it doesn’t guarantee it. For every story like McCall’s, there are a hundred others with a different ending. Eventually, one moves on or keeps hoping for lightning to strike. And sometimes it does.
(Courtesy of wondrouspics.com)