Truth to Power

RIP John Callahan

John Callahan, Cartoonist, Dies at 59

John Callahan, a quadriplegic, alcoholic cartoonist whose work in newspapers and magazines made irreverent, impolitic sport of people with disabilities and diseases and those who would pity and condescend to them, died on Saturday in Portland, Ore. He was 59 and lived in Portland.

Looking askance at the culture of confession and self-help fostered by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera, he was not inclined in his work to be outwardly sympathetic to the afflicted or to respect the boundaries of racial and ethnic stereotyping. His cartoons were often polarizing: some found them outrageously funny, others outrageously offensive.

There was the drawing of a restaurant, the Anorexic Cafe, with a sign in the window saying, “Now Closed 24 Hours a Day.” There was one showing a group of confused-looking square dancers unable to respond to the caller’s instruction to “return to the girl that you just left,” with a headline reading, “The Alzheimer Hoedown.” </em>

I read Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot years ago, and was astounded. With brutal humor, Callahan strips away the proper and correct and gets you to actually see the life of a disabled person. An amazing book from an amazing talent.

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