Monday, September 08, 2008


Above: the tattered book jacket.

SEXCAPADES THE LOVE LIFE OF THE MODERN HOMO SAPIENS by Al Ross, with text selected by Kerwin Bowles is a lovely book little hardcover. There's a quote (by Swift, Shakespeare, Goldmith, Keats, etc.) and a drawing (by cartoonist Al Ross) on every page. It was published by Stravon Publishers in New York in 1953 and is copyright 1953 by Al Ross.

Sweet babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace.
— William Blake

At first glance, the book is about mating rituals of heterosexuals — a base subject made lofty by some serious quotes. The meaty quotes are matched by the drawings — fresh and spontaneous drawings — by New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross.

O! Let me have thee whole, — all, all be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss—those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white lucent, million-pleasured breast—
Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all!
— John Keats
From the SEXCAPADES dustjacket:

"After years of cartooning for Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and other mass circulation media, Al Ross one day looked at himself in the mirror. The face with the lather on it began to ask:

"'If this then love? Is sex always a symptom of psychoneurosis? Was Kinsey right? Or don't you suspect that there may have been a time, somehow, somewhere, when Boy did meet Girl and True Love's course ran true?'

"Al Ross cleared the lather from his face and brushed away a cobweb from his mind. He resolved to draw a whole bookful of cartoons, exactly as he felt, not as a caption writer prescribed. He would express his essential, romantic self in sensitive, simple strokes; he would wreck the sex hex. The result— Sexcapades."
Well, actually, he has some of the best caption writers around, as chosen by Mr. Bowles.

Love is a species of warfare.
— Ovid, Art of Love

Above: the girls in the distance, and below, the guys having a sports-related dispute.

Alas! Regardless of their doom
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come
Nor care beyond today.
— Thomas Gray

Banish the canker of ambitious thoughts.
— Shakespeare, II Henry VI

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness.
— Robert Herrick

He unabashed her garter saw
That now would touch her skirts with awe.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

O pwerful love! That, in some respects, makes
a beast a man, in some other, a man a beast.
— Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor

From the dustjacket:

"He is an accomplished painter, having studied at the Art Students League under McNulty and Lebrun; traces of this background have been discerned in his delineations by connoisseurs. To round out the picture it must be reported that he is a devotee to billiards, a weight lifter of sorts and an avid collector of African sculpture."

More on Al Ross:

Cartoonist Al Ross

Al Ross and his Cartoon Style

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