There may not be an artist or cartoonist or creator whose work is more deserving of a coffee table book than Rube Goldberg. Goldberg's cartoons, depicting silly, elaborate, and impractical machines, earned him the rare privilege of nounage; you may have drawn or build Rube Goldberg contraptions in school as a creative exercise. Goldberg's granddaughter, designer Jennifer George, has assembled just such a book, putting together nearly 200 pages of Goldberg's cartoons into The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius.
NPR posted a short but sweet reminder of why Rube Goldberg's designs were so fun, and why they became so iconic. "A hundred years ago, machines were easier," writes Robert Krulwich. "They were built to do one or two things, and they did it simply, with parts that fit snugly together. In fact, the great cartoonist Rube Goldberg made people laugh by taking basic tools and adding complexity, just for the fun of it."
Goldberg's designs were intentionally absurd, adding needless complexity to machines that often made them less efficient than doing something by hand. And that was the beauty of them, argues NPR. Technology and machinery weren't a means to an end, but rather the entire point. And, of course, it was what made them funny.
Here's the example, an impossibly skinny arm used to serve a stenographer a cup of coffee while she continues furiously typing away.
Krulwich writes: "the deeper joke, says New Yorker writer Adam Gopnick...is that a machine like this doesn't really save time. This gal could probably gulp a cup of coffee just as fast (with no jiggly mess) by herself. And yet, in some wonderful way, a machine is more dramatic. More exciting. That's what Rube Goldberg was really celebrating: He reminds us what it's like to have, as Gopnick puts it, 'a soul-deep love' of machinery. In Rube's imagination, the best things in life (and maybe, deep down, everything in life) is deeply mechanical."
Goldberg's ideas embodied the spirit of invention for the sake of invention.George's book spans the arc of Goldberg's career, from high school newspaper to iconic inventions to political cartoons. If Goldberg had made the coffee table book himself, though, we have to imagine it would've been an invention in and of itself.