Wastebasket refugees

MATTHEW DIFFEE has been contributing cartoons to the New Yorker since 1999. He is the author of "The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, and Never Will See, in the New Yorker."

I CONSIDER MYSELF a pretty lucky guy. I have a cartoon in the New Yorker almost every week. I couldn’t be happier about that, except for the small nagging fact that I also have, every week, about nine cartoons that don’t appear in the magazine. Every silver lining has a cloud.

Rejection happens to all of us. It’s an unpleasant, unavoidable part of life, like Britney Spears or dying. And it happens more than you might think to cartoonists. In each issue of the New Yorker, there’s room for only about 15 to 20 cartoons, and there are about 50 regularly contributing cartoonists, who each submit 10 cartoons every week. That’s 500 right there. And that’s not counting the slush pile, which, if you don’t know, is the colossal scrap heap of cartoons that come in from all over the world from unknown hopefuls, perhaps like yourself, whose chances of being discovered are slim to none. (Nothing personal, I’m just telling you how it is.)

So most of our stuff gets rejected; and sure, some of the rejected cartoons are pretty bad and deserve to be hidden forever. But there are always a few gems that are missed, and believe me, we remember them. So I decided to collect the best rejects from a number of my friends and colleagues -- all regular New Yorker cartoonists, but all of whom, like me, have nine out of 10 of their submissions rejected. I gathered them together into a book, “The Rejection Collection.”

Why were these particular cartoons rejected? I can’t say for sure. I guess some were too racy, rude or rowdy. Some are too politically incorrect or too weird. A few are probably too dumb. But mostly, I think, they’re just too many. If the New Yorker bought all of these, there wouldn’t be room for any of the writing, which is really good, I’m told.