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The Good Times are Killing Me

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  879 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Nationally syndicated cartoonist Lynda Barry's moving, quirky and honest first novel about a young girl's coming of age--which has also been a hit off-Broadway play--is back in print, with new artwork by the author. In The Good Times Are Killing Me, Lynda Barry reveals her masterful way with story, memory, and feelings, and anyone who lingers in Edna Arkins's world will be ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Sasquatch Books (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
an adolescent girl's voice, perfectly captured in all of its off-kilter, i-am-not-understanding-this-cruel-world oddness. race, specifically black & white and sometimes black versus white. friendship, challenged. families, challenged. a neighborhood changing in the 60s. school and all of its terrors (and some of its joys). music appreciation, lots of it. lots of it. measure out heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal parts. delicate, tough-minded, sensitive, empathetic, real. lovely!

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is told in the voice of 12-year-old Edna Arkins, somewhat like Ellen Foster except that Edna's life is not as troubled as Ellen's.
The voice here is quite convincing, dwelling on just the sort of things you'd expect a 12-year-old girl in the 1960s to be concerned about.

The most interesting part of the book for me was the Music Notebook at the back. It gives brief histories of the various music styles of the South and some musician bios. Not a lot of detail, but it was surprising how much
Dec 07, 2008 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
This was my first read of Lynda Barry. Actually once I started it a friend reminded me that I'd seen a theater production of this a number of years back. Barry is marvelous at capturing the voice of Edna her main character, a child of about 11 or so who is in the 6th grade, as well as the voices of the folks who are in Edna's life. Aunt Margaret's voice was particularly authentic as was that of her daughter Ellen and Edna's best friend Bonna. The quality of voice probably explains why this book ...more
Jan 27, 2010 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-white
Lynda Barry does it again! This is one of her earlier books (for me anyway) and it is text with just a few graphics. Her ability to tell a story isn't hampered by the lack of images. There's no one like her for conveying the voice of a child in the adults' world. This book centers around the friendship between a white girl (probably autobiographical) with a black girl and its devastation after the girls make that seismic shift from childhood to preteen/middle school age. [BTW this is considered ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Klelly rated it it was amazing
Well one thing that they never tell you in the grade school is to enjoy singing while you can because eventually you are going to be divided up by who can sing and who can't sing, and the people who can sing will go to Choir, and the ones who can't sing won't sing, and may never sing again, and go to the class called "Music Appreciation" where a teacher will give you a piece of cardboard printed with the life-size keys of a piano and then teach you how to play "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" on it to a re ...more
Lisa Kelsey
Dec 27, 2015 Lisa Kelsey rated it it was amazing
Lovely and sad and true.
Feb 01, 2009 corinne rated it really liked it
Oh my goodness - Lynda Barry is so damn funny. There are some vivid images in this book that rest real comfortably in the childlike psyche of the narrator. Like the narrator sitting in front of the phonograph listening to elvis presley and puncturing the black fabric over the speakers slowly and rhythmically with a pencil, the soft thud of pencil entry giving her a satisfying feeling somewhere down there.
In addition to being funny, Lynda Barry is also very introspective on race relations from a
Patty May
Apr 11, 2010 Patty May rated it really liked it
I love Lynda Barry so, I'm pretty biased, but this is a very sweet, short coming of age story woven trough a fabric of music. the music notebook in the back is a great tribute to the lives of musicians that are illustrated with fabulous painted portraits, and short, rich biographical sketches. I learned that Louis Armstrong became a great trumpet player because of the twist of fate that got him arrested and locked up in the "Colored Waif's Home" where there was a music teacher who handed him a t ...more
Mar 17, 2009 Sundry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Lynda Barry has complete access to the eleven-year-old psyche. Wonderful little book.
May 20, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with this story a few years ago when we performed it as a play at my high school. It’s short and very readable – the language isn’t particularly complicated, but it’s arresting in its own way. Lynda Barry captures the voice of her adolescent narrator flawlessly. Twelve-year-old Edna Arkins is every bit as awkward as you might hope, but also sweet and earnest. She’s not the popular bitch you hated in middle school; she’s the twelve-year-old you. Am I biased? Probably.

I have a song
Oct 31, 2010 Caitlin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 23, 2015 Hans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lynda Barry captures the voice of a child growing up on the wrong side of town, discovering how music and racial intolerance work. This novel is a short work. The core themes feel more important than Barry's more perfectly formed later work (Cruddy), but (due to the length) this novel might leave you wanting a little too much "more." Even if you want more, you should spend this time with Edna, her family and friends.
Diane Fraser
Jul 11, 2015 Diane Fraser rated it it was amazing
WHoever borrowed my copy of this book and KEPT IT please give it back, I miss you! The original paperback edition! Lynda Barry captures the tensions and challenges in adolescent friendships, and the precariousness of friendship across racial lines. Such a TRUE book.
Emilia P
Jan 11, 2009 Emilia P rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-books
Oh Lynda, I love you. There are a couple of reasons I am not married to this book--it seemed sort of like it held back a little bit for the sake of the kids, no swears, no super super uncomfortable situations, trying a little to get a greater meaning out of them. It had all the important touchstones of a good Barry-crazy families, crazy neighborhoods, crazy schools, the ineffable weirdness of childhood, and I love of those and I need them, and I want to write about them too a little. Maybe the n ...more
Christine Ott
Mar 30, 2016 Christine Ott rated it it was amazing
I love Lynda Barry. There is a simplicity in her storytelling, yet the stories are not simple. She expertly captures the voice of a middle school girl; it is impossible to not relate. The chapters are short, and at least while you're in the middle of it, they occasionally seem a bit directionless -- albeit perfect snapshots of Edna's life -- but Barry sneaks up on you: the story pulls together in a few short pages, with heart aching perfection.
Dec 03, 2012 Luisa rated it really liked it
Written in a series of very short first person vignettes, it’s up to the reader to put together the pieces of Edna’s sad life with things becoming clearer as her narrative progresses. It’s almost as if her life is shattered into little glimpses. The focus is on how setting impacts people. Edna's urban neighborhood in the early sixties is changing from mostly white to very mixed. The time and the place where white Edna and black Bonna are growing up is volatile with the best friends stuck in the ...more
Aug 31, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
Would never have thought to read this book. So glad I did. The author was recommended and I'm now a fan and will look for more of her strangely appealing books.
May 18, 2016 Alison rated it it was amazing
This was heartbreaking, plain and simple. The book is short, I read it in about a day, but this doesn't make the ending any less powerful.
Jul 08, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the story and especially the style Lynda Barry tells it in. She uses the theme of music to write about growing up. She has a straightforward descriptions about the gap between the ideals of equality her english class reads about, and the fact that once she gets to 7th grade everyone separates into groups of people that look the same.
She also includes profiles and portraits she wrote and drew of musicians from the 19th century. The musicians' lives sound amazing and tragic and there is
Bob Busk
Aug 06, 2016 Bob Busk rated it really liked it
Read this awhile back...just remember smiling all the way through.
Aug 12, 2010 Lina rated it liked it
Lynda Barry is an exquisite story teller. With refreshing honesty that will take you back to childhood, she talks about kindness and bigotry. compassion and betrayal. friendships and color lines (when they used to matter). growing up before you grow old.

Her stories remind me that we experience some of the most difficult grown-up events when we're not grown-up. It is at that remarkable time between childhood and adolescence that we know how to articulate and navigate through our feelings much be
Jul 23, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written little book.
Dec 11, 2008 Ciara rated it liked it
whoops. don't remember this one either. even though it's heavier on the words & the art is a departure from the regular comic-style layout. i do believe it has something to do with growing up & being of color & struggling to come to terms with one's ethnic identity. & it was made into a play in the ealr 90s, i believe. that's really all i've got. what is it with me & my block against retaining lynda barry books? i like her stuff when i think of it in the abstract, but when pr ...more
Tina Madan
May 15, 2010 Tina Madan rated it really liked it
Although I performed in this play I felt that I couldn't make a strong connection to it like I have been able to do before. I appreciated the play and loved the values and ideals it presented but the thing that kept me from saying that I truly love this play is the fact that I was unable get into it. I was able to relate nicely and I felt the story...but only AFTER performing it.
eva steele-saccio
Mar 30, 2007 eva steele-saccio rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who have lost a best friend
This is a hilarious, quirky, and touching meditation on friendship, music, and race, told in true Linda Barry style. If you haven't read any Linda Barry, you should. She's really funny, but totally eccentric. You can read this book in one or two train rides--it's an illustrated text. Couldn't be more exacting about the embarassment and cruelty of being a seventh grader.
Jan 03, 2013 LA rated it really liked it
Fun, quick read. Authentic child's voice who experiences friendship, ignorance, growing up, contradiction, bigotry, and discovering the joys of music. Not over done or too sentimental, but just perfect. Has black and white brush illustrations for each first letter of each "chapter." I only wish there were color illustrations because I love her artwork to color.
Mar 02, 2009 B rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-graphic
Graphic novel about a white girl becoming friends with a black girl that has moved into the neighborhood which is experiencing "white flight." Although her pictures are odd, I've always identified with her kids and teenagers...they sound and behave authentic. It's always a trip back to my own younger years when I read Lynda Barry.
Jul 09, 2008 Kyle rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, blacks, music
This is a book about race. Edna Arkins is a white adolescent. Gradually all the white families move out and blacks and filipinos move in. It's about how when she was younger her best friend is a black girl and how they feel they can't talk to each other when they're older. It is set in the 60s and talks a lot about the music of the time.
Jan 04, 2009 Shawntain rated it liked it
This mini-novel seemed pretty thin compared to "Cruddy", and like it could have gone further with the subject matter of race as kids deal with it in mixed schools/neighborhoods. But maybe she was just getting her prose writing chops in order to write "Cruddy". Nice illustrations and a moving story nonetheless.
May 27, 2012 Susie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiftyfiftyme
Lynda Barry captures the circuitous weirdness of a tween's thought process pitch perfectly; it's actually pretty eerie. This book was easily read under two hours, so I suggest it for my fellow Fifty Fifty readers (, but seriously I just really love Lynda Barry so I'd recommend it to anyone.
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500 Great Books B...: The Good Times are Killing Me - Lynda Barry 1 5 Jul 24, 2014 07:50PM  
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Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author, perhaps best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.
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