051: Good Days and MAD by Dick DeBartolo

by Gerard

051: DeBartolo, Dick. Good Days and MAD: A Hysterical Tour Behind the Scenes at MAD Magazine. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994. 275 pp. ISBN 1-5602-5077-1.

Dewey Construction:

  • 000: Computer science, information, and general works
  • 050: Magazine, journals, and serial publications
  • 051: General serial publications in American English

In 1952, William Gaines decided to start a small mildly-amusing comic book to round out his group of publications. When that comic book decided to dodge the censorship code and become a magazine in 1955, MAD Magazine as we know it today was born. When Dick DeBartolo—often considered MAD’s Maddest Writer—sent in a script for a satirical commercial in 1961, Gaines sent back a response on cardboard telling him it had been accepted (and to send more!).  Thus began five decades of comic writing and shenanigans.

DeBartolo, who has had material published in every issue dating back to 1966, started with MAD after its formative years but before it had become a cultural institution. His relationship with Gaines forms the center of the book, showing how he creating and shepherded magazine through the years. Gaines’s personality is a curious one—he would lavish his staff with intermittent trips but not approve pay raises and question long distance charges on the bill. He would spend money to ensure that the magazine looked “cheap.”

Of more interest are the constant “forewords” sprinkled throughout the book. These two-page snippets allow the other MAD contributors to shine, all while waxing nostalgic about their former boss. Much like the magazine itself, there are small nuggets of humor buried throughout the margins and extra pages. While the history of magazine was interesting, it’s these extras that make the book worth it.

With this book, I have now read and reviewed one book in every Dewey Decimal division: 99 books in all (plus three extra because of previous reading club commitments, so I’m really at 102 for the project). They’ve ranged from a treatise on Italian grammar and dialects to Soviet demographics, from the memoir of a wedding photographer to botanical fraud in the Hebrides. While a few of them were downright boring, on the whole, this first tour of the divisions has been mostly fun and engaging. I have another 291 on my shelves, so that’ll get me through the next two to three years. I’ve found that Mechanical Turk (how I earn money to buy more books) can be simultaneously fun and tedious and it can greatly take away from actual reading time.

Since starting this project, I’ve added 182 books to my collection and have no intention of stopping until I get all the sections! Thanks, all, for the support and comments so far. Only 788 more books to read!