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Under The Microscope

THE FAR SIDE GALLERY 4, by Gary Larson; Warner Books 1993; 168 pages; $27.95

The Far Side Gallery 4 contains the collected cartoons from Wildlife Preserves, Wiener Dog Art and Unnatural Selections. The larger format of the collections makes it easier to handle and shelve, though the sheer quantity of material means you tend to dip, rather than "read" from beginning to end.

In his introduction, Robin Williams compares The Far Side to watching a National Geographic special while on drugs -- those cigar-smoking termites and cows with attitude have plainly got to him. Larson's sense of the ridiculous gets to a lot of us. It's difficult to read this volume (or any other) without snickering constantly. His preoccupation with science and scientists has made Larson an honorary member of the fraternity, and rightly so.

Those of you who haven't walked into a lab or science faculty lately may not be aware of the increasing importance of Larson cartoons. Not only do they often provide the inhabitants with a chance to make a statement about their science, in some places the cartoons provide a handy substitute for wallpaper. Cartoons from The Far Side Gallery 4 will no doubt be making an appearance on those walls real soon now.

Vicki Hyde, NZSM