Shrek is so happy as cows, dogs, pigs, people, and trees flee him. He falters only during a nightmare about being in a field of beautiful flowers surrounded by frolicking children. Then there's that ending with his ghastly princess: "They clawed their way into each other's arms. Like fire and smoke, these two belonged together."

Couples were one of Steig's bread-and-butter subjects. A 1988 cartoon shows Punch and Judy bickering across a dinner table as their daughter rolls her eyes, thinking, "Not this again." Ordinary annoyances of life that drive us to distraction are the source of much of his humor. As he wrote in the last lines of his 1973 book The Real Thief: "There was peace and harmony in the kingdom once again, except for the little troubles that come up every so often in the best of circumstances, since nothing is perfect."

New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff speaks at the Norman Rockwell Museum this evening, August 19, at 5:30 pm | Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.

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