Tag Archives: graphic memoir

What It Is by Lynda Barry

22nd September 2011

*I bought this book at the Strand bookstore when I was there for BEA in May.

In What It Is, Lynda Barry talks about writing – both personally and anecdotally. One part instructive and three parts creative, the book first talks about images, stories, characters, and monsters and where they come from, although in a very different way than Scott McCloud does in Understanding Comics.

When I brought this book into my ESL classroom a couple weeks ago to illustrate something we were discussing, several students wanted to share their opinions: “That person must be the crazy” and “Something is wrong with the writer’s head” were two common phrases.

No doubt about it, Lynda Barry is obsessive, though in my opinion, all good artists are. You could read this book and look at it half a dozen times and still miss something because each page is an elaborate collage. Some have her drawings on top of old letters. Some have old letters or ads or newspaper clippings pasted onto her drawings to illustrate her own creative exploration. Most often, the clipping adds to the meaning or interprets the meaning.

While this is interesting, and I loved seeing her evolution as an artist, I really loved the discussion of creativity in children. She argues that at some point in each of our lives, creativity is snuffed out and becomes something we either apologize for or do completely on our own. It’s an interesting concept and one I know I’ve read somewhere but cannot find support for. She also argues in the page below that “the time for [creativity] is always with us though we say I do not have that kind of time. The kind of time I have is not for this but for that. I wish I had that kind of time.” This is and will always be, for me, what distinguishes artists from amateurs: choosing the time and using it for art.

What It Is is a beautiful, compelling book, and it even includes a section in the back to get you started writing or drawing or creating. This section is by no means small, and the only reason I haven’t attempted it is because the book is really too pretty to write in. What It Is is a book I’ll treasure and come back to again and again, and it’s one I would encourage anyone who enjoys writing, reading or creating to have on hand.

Read this: If you need a shot in the arm to write, draw, paint, sing, create. Be prepared to pore over the pages.

Reunion by Pascal Girard

6th September 2011

*I bought this book from the Strand bookstore in New York when I was there for BEA. They have a great graphic novel/comics section. (Pubbed by Drawn & Quarterly, indie comic pub)

My love affair with comics and graphic novels began late in life when I realized superheros and such were much more psychological in nature than I ever thought. I sped through some standards and then left off for a time. Since then, though, I have tried to pick one up when I can and am always looking for more suggestions…hint hint. I picked this particular book up because, I mean, come on, it’s about a high school reunion and the author’s experiences there. This is pure gold.

So Pascal’s gal ain’t going anywhere near his reunion. I can’t say I blame her. How fun can it be to go to a significant other/spouse’s reunion? If you dread it, you can be sure your partner will. Then Pascal’s high school crush emails him to see if they should meet up, and he tries to be all suave and dood-ish. (You know, “dude” except not as cool.) He starts jogging, starving himself, and shopping so he can impress said former crush and the “losers” at his reunion. Because Pascal is an artist now, so surely he’s not one of the losers? Yet minute by minute he makes himself a bit more of an ass until the reunion is a total disaster. (I promise I’m not giving anything away.)

Reunion is seriously like watching the person in the next car over pick his nose. You can’t stop looking, but it’s so. darn. awful. Pascal sticks his foot in his mouth all over the place, and the more he tries to act cool, the more everyone sort of hates him. Pascal, on one hand, wants everyone to change, yet he hasn’t changed all that much and is still the chubby, insecure guy he used to be. When Lucie, his crush, doesn’t show, Pascal is beyond ready to get the heck out of dodge and return to his post-high school life.

This was a great diversion, and honestly, I think I need more GNs as a palate cleanser between heavier books. While yes, many GNs are very serious, the visual nature of them is a relief in a lot of ways. A friend suggests I should try out Grenuord Number 1 by Francesca Ghermandi. Any other suggestions?

Other graphic novel/memoir reviews:

Stitches by David Small

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud