By Rod Davis TEXAS STATEHOUSE BLUES: THE EDITORIAL CARTOONS OF BEN SARGENT By Ben Sargent Texas Monthly Press, 144 pp., $5.95 My all-time favorite Ben Sargent cartoon is the one re-printed here, with Jehovah himself contrite over the infamous name mix-up in 1976 that temporarily put Don Yarbrough on the Texas Supreme Court. The drawing was the perfect finesse to the numerous apologias and men culpas from the Texas press and most everyone else in the state for confusing Don Yarbrough sans “0” with Don Yarborough, the liberal who once ran against John Connally. Don Yarbrough, the Houston slick, got elected on the other’s name but later was convicted on an embezzlement charge and removed from office. Even then I figured if Sargent could hit the exact dead center of the breast-beating with such surgical precision, we were in the midst of the making of a great American political cartoonist. Nothing has changed my mind about that, though I remain mystified that he stays at the Austin American Statesman, with whose not very bright upper curmudgeons he can’t share many viewpoints. I know why they want to keep him, though. He’s the best thing the pa .4zGrmr.. O ews. Amok aadmak has become, without question, the premiere cartoonist in Texas, and many of his zingers have been printed in these pages. Flipping through his first book, one can re-live the insanity bordering on terror that shapes politics in this state and somehow come out with a chuckle. A depraved chuckle, the kind no one else should hear, but a chuckle nonetheless. Everyone loves him. Even his targets savor a Sargent cartoon. You’ll see reprints or originals hanging on the walls of many a politico, testimony to having arrived. The only exception is Our Governor, who ordered six Sargent cartoons with a typical Clementism advising Ben where he could put them. Sargent roared back a week later with an outlandish rendition of the governor as an oilfield redneck quaffing suds at a bar. About the only thing I don’t like about the book is the grackle who seems to have been put in by some editor as a narrative vehicle. Maybe it was necessary, but I found myself distracted from the cartoons by the grackle’s dialogue. Minor quibble. Buy this book. Save it. Actually, you ought to send it to those provincial morons at The New York Times and Newsweek, who never bother to include Sargent in their so-called national round-ups of political cartoons. If anyone up there is reading this, wise up, you’re missing the best thing out of Texas since Willie. If Texas had a Sistine Chapel, Ben would do the ceiling. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23 per’s got. When Ben’s book, Texas Statehouse Blues, came out this spring, people lined up at Scholz’s for at least two hours to get his autograph. I’ve seen a lot of strange happenings at the Dearly Beloved through the years, but I’ve never seen anything like that. Ben’s hand must’ve been in traction for a week. Since he quit being a reporter for UPI and various other Texas news organizations a few years back and took up that for which the Muse cut him out, Sargent
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