Do you like comic-book memoirs? The sweetly conflicted adolescent remembrances of Craig Thompson and Chester Brown? The insistence on exposing ones leDo you like comic-book memoirs? The sweetly conflicted adolescent remembrances of Craig Thompson and Chester Brown? The insistence on exposing ones least attractive habits and behaviors that drives the work of Joe Matt? The gawky innocence and heartbreak conveyed by the out-of-control doodles populating the world of Lynda Barry? The absurdist suburban nightmares of Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns? The dense pages and bright melancholy of Chris Ware? The brilliant hindsight of Alison Bechdel? The fragile scratches and intimate approach of Jeffrey Brown? Wouldn't you like to have all of those things in one cartoonist?
Meet David Heatley. Please, meet him. Bring him into your home and life. Give him some money, that he might make more books.
Naked in every sense of the term, "Brain" is oversized, awkwardly shaped, and packed with one painful frame after another, with a familiar and very specific discomfort that could only come from a true past. Diving right in, Heatley proceeds to document, in unflinching detail, every sexual encounter in his entire life up to his marriage, starting in kindergarten. If he left anything out due to embarrassment, the mind reels at what it possibly could have been, considering the vulnerability of the events laid out for us here. Next he tackles race, going back through his life and introducing us to all of the black people he's ever known or had a memorable encounter with. Just as Heatley fearlessly displays his kinks in the first segment, he isn't shy at all about revealing an occasionally racist attitude, in spite of having been around black people for his entire life and counting many of them among his closest friends. Rounding out the book are equally touching and not necessarily complimentary vignettes that bring the author's parents to vivid life, several illustrated dreams, and a family tree capper that drags a bit in comparison to all that's come before it but effectively draws the book to a hopeful close.
An amazing work and no doubt the best thing I'll read this year, this ranks right up there among my most successful impulse purchases (I'm pretty sure my local Border's broke street date on it!), and has put an end to a reading dry spell for me. I'm gonna go read it again....more
Really cocky people tend to both fascinate and frighten me, in both cases because I absolutely cannot, for even a second, relate to their train of thoReally cocky people tend to both fascinate and frighten me, in both cases because I absolutely cannot, for even a second, relate to their train of thought. The idea of a person not only believing in themselves but actually behaving as though they are the bravest and most capable guy in the room, to the point where they stand up for themselves and reach lofty goals through bullheaded persistence alone, is not a thing I can easily process. If I met Anthony Bourdain, (whose last name does not currently appear on this review page and as such I cannot/am unwilling to go look at the book itself or access the Travel Network webpage to verify my hopefully correct attempt to spell it from memory), I would be torn between following him around like a puppy and fleeing in terror, crying and wailing "PLEASE DON'T MAKE FUN OF ME FOR NOT TRYING IN MY LIFE!".
His show makes me too uncomfortable (I prefer the bald guy who eats fried spider dink sandwiches, washing it down with a refreshing smoothie of blended dog faces), but in book format his way with a seamy anecdote and infectious love of food make this a quick and fun read, despite his constant need to reassure the reader that he is incredibly cool, tough, punk, and all that. ...more
A breezy read about a weird (some might even say bad) dad, whose method of dealing with his son's behavior is to wait for him to, say, do a bunch of cA breezy read about a weird (some might even say bad) dad, whose method of dealing with his son's behavior is to wait for him to, say, do a bunch of coke, then reminisce with him about the time he himself did a bunch of coke when he was a kid and how that sure sucked. It's an entertaining look at unconventional (at least in my admittedly minimal experience) parenting, but I didn't find myself terribly enlightened by the film-watching aspect of the story. They interrupt the fighting and crying about stuff to watch a movie every now and then, and that's about it. Still, the father's affection comes through, and he makes no efforts to conceal his foibles and not-always productive attitude, which I liked. The movie stuff is just very secondary, and the title and flaps heavily suggest otherwise....more
Jim Norton is a funny guy, but he doesn't tend to expound on a wide variety of topics, typically limiting his subject matter to his own worthlessnessJim Norton is a funny guy, but he doesn't tend to expound on a wide variety of topics, typically limiting his subject matter to his own worthlessness and paying call girls to defecate on his chest. The fact that all this remains compelling for any length of time is a testament to his uncanny ability to continally devise new and increasingly vile (and generally clever) methods of getting his various messages across. Think of him as George Carlin's undervalued nephew. And under the scatological misogyny, there's a genuine heart, however shriveled and concealed.
His desire to shock lapses into more than a few desperate dirty-for-dirty's-sake moments, and his drawn-out ideas for ungreenlightable sitcoms, while creative, lend themselves well to impatient skimming. But I loved his disgusted critiques of letters he wrote to ex-girlfriends in his teen years, as well as his mortified reactions to a heavyhanded poem he wrote while in a rehab center in his early twenties. More of that kind of thing would have been welcome.
A smart, funny dude often dismissed as a carbon copy shock comic, Norton is someone whose standup you should check out if you like guys like Louis C.K. (and where's HIS book?) or perhaps Doug Stanhope. The book you can probably skip. ...more
Efficient bio whose warts-and-all motif hits its apex right around the time celebrated Monty Python alum Chapman gazes out a nearby window at some pasEfficient bio whose warts-and-all motif hits its apex right around the time celebrated Monty Python alum Chapman gazes out a nearby window at some passing grade school lads and wistfully intones "Ah, here come my little chickens". To say nothing of the passage where he takes it upon himself to stir a random pub patron's drink with his penis, an occurance that the lucky customer treats as a henceforth forever treasured celebrity encounter. Those were, apparently, the days.
Apart from the occasional spurts of randy conduct, for the most part Chapman did not seem to be the type of person that anyone really got to know, family and friends alike. Even John Cleese and David Sherlock, Chapman's writing and life partners respectively, remain largely befuddled and in the dark when it comes to the man's behavior and thought process. Fellow members of Python (except for Eric Idle, whose relationship with Chapman appears to have been prickly at best) chime in with anecdotes and perspective, but overall seemed to have viewed him as, alternately, a charmingly soused enigma and an undependable loose cannon whose addictions constantly threatened to derail their comedic venture.
The writing is concise without feeling standoffish, and one is rarely if ever bored with the backstory and various antics (the man did hang out with Keith Moon, after all), but ultimately it doesn't seem as though Chapman gave anyone sufficient opportunity to crack his confounding exterior, and as such a few hours spent watching old reruns of his reliably hilarious work on "Python" will give you about as much insight into the man as this book can, and possibly more. ...more
The complaints here are well-founded: as a tribute to a seminal album, this book mostly fails. Long stretches pass in which The Replacements are barelThe complaints here are well-founded: as a tribute to a seminal album, this book mostly fails. Long stretches pass in which The Replacements are barely mentioned. Basically, the Decemberists guy tells you a childhood story, says something like "I sure listened to the Replacements a lot", tells another story, says "Seriously, I practically wore out the tape", and on to the next story. So if you're looking for insight, song by song breakdown, or information in general related to the album "Let it Be" by The Replacements, this book is only going to piss you off. I think I know about 4 songs total by The Replacements (something that needs to be remedied soon), and one by the Decemberists (ditto), so I wasn't looking for much of anything here other than something diverting to read, and that's pretty much what I got. I'm about memoired out over here, but for the most part I found these remembrances to be quite cozy, with a pleasing restraint that I hadn't expected of the author. Ultimately, though, this entry is more for Meloy disciples than for longtime fans of Westerberg and Co., and as such is more than a bit misleading. ...more
I was rather hoping this would be about Bruce Lee, not about a guy who really likes Bruce Lee. Alas. A couple chapters near the end actually are aboutI was rather hoping this would be about Bruce Lee, not about a guy who really likes Bruce Lee. Alas. A couple chapters near the end actually are about Bruce Lee. Those are good chapters. The rest of the book is basically the author telling you how tough he is, infusing the wankfest with some unconvincing self-effacing humor. There's a positive blurb from Joyce Carol Oates on the back. That probably should have been my cue to throw the book into the forest. ...more
I would like it if Lynda Barry would make a cartoon version of every work of literature ever written, thereby improving it. I am angry at her for notI would like it if Lynda Barry would make a cartoon version of every work of literature ever written, thereby improving it. I am angry at her for not writing a new book every day and personally mailing an autographed copy to me, enclosing a Slim Jim and a $100 bill. ...more
I love Warren Zevon. I think he's just the best. Even when he was alive, his voice sounded kind of like how a ghost might sing - all wiggly and sad anI love Warren Zevon. I think he's just the best. Even when he was alive, his voice sounded kind of like how a ghost might sing - all wiggly and sad and weird and funny. Though he undoubtedly would have been fun to have a drink or two with, I feel bad for the people who had to spend any significant amount of time with him, since, as this biography, not to mention his own lyrics, will often attest, the guy behaved like a drunken asshole most of the time. I simply do not care. He never did anything to me, other than provide me with practically half my favorite songs. He could have drop-kicked his newborn infant off a cliff (in a perhaps rare moment of forethought, he did not do this) and I'd still be into him, and that's if the only thing he ever wrote was "Carmelita".
The book does a good job stressing that Zevon was well worth knowing when he was at his best, but doesn't shy away, at all, from his less-dignified moments, of which there are apparently many to select from. I'm typically not too fast a reader, but I blew through 450 pages in about an hour and a half. It's one of them deals where a bunch of people who knew him take turns relating various incidents and takes on things, like that SNL book awhile back. It's an approach that seems to mesh well with tales of celebrity indiscretion.
I would recommend this more for people who already knew they liked Warren Zevon. Otherwise, the albums "Excitable Boy" and "Life'll Kill Ya" are probably better intros. If you were to read this book knowing nothing of him, you might come away thinking he's just a weird dick, as opposed to a weird dick who made beautiful songs. ...more
When dealing head on with his brother's illness and how it affects his family and life, David B's acclaimed graphic memoir is gripping, frightening, aWhen dealing head on with his brother's illness and how it affects his family and life, David B's acclaimed graphic memoir is gripping, frightening, and sad. As it happens, "Epileptic" is, for the most part, about the very act of not dealing head on with anything. In youth, the author escaped his stressful family life via a world of his own creation, pairing his considerable artistic skills with an ever-expanding knowledge and love of history, notorious battles in particular. It felt to me like we're treated to far more of the avoidance than the titular topic, which makes sense, as the author understandably spent more time indulging in make-believe than hanging out with his difficult sibling. In the end, this makes "Epileptic" more of a personal exorcism (albiet an impressively illustrated one) than a cohesive story. Also, I don't like his lettering.
Your own enjoyment might possibly hinge on your being French, and smarter than me. There are some amazing sections, but after awhile I just wanted it over with. ...more
First of all, the "Roadfood" books contain some of my flat-out favorite writing. Sometimes I think I'd rather read a Stern-scribed paragraph devoted tFirst of all, the "Roadfood" books contain some of my flat-out favorite writing. Sometimes I think I'd rather read a Stern-scribed paragraph devoted to a cheeseburger than eat one. The paragraph is often at least equally satisfying, and doesn't magically turn into a poor-smelling brown thing that begs to exit your asshole while you're in the middle of a particularly good "Seinfeld" you haven't seen in awhile. I'm just trying to get the poop reference out of the way early here. Stay with me.
So I like the Sterns a lot, and I envy their carefree life of cruising the back roads of America, encountering hole-in-the-wall diners, sampling the local fare without regard for personal health, and later giving the unsung propreitors their due in adjective-laden writeups that, when their enthusiasm levels run particularly high, range from ravenous lust to real love (they compare the taste of a Kentucky-based eatery's fried chicken to a first kiss). Their best encapsulations read like poetry, odes to shoo-fly pie and red-and-white checkered tablecloths that I flip to repeatedly, often (really) wiping tears both incredulous and ridiculous from my eyes. I enjoy food.
And golly, so do the Sterns, who on their jaunts routinely patronize ten restaurants a day, so it's good thing that they managed to wedge this memoir under their taut belts, because no doubt their bloated, tartar-sauce-oozing corpses will be heaped like so much country ham on hospital gurneys any day now. As always, their writing is engaging and descriptive, but rather lacking in the anecdote department. They eat and drive and eat and drive. Once the vicarious "Gee, I wish I could get paid to drive around all day eating ribs and pie" thrill wears off, what remains is pleasant enough but unsatisfying, like a...I don't know, like a friggin' sandwich that doesn't taste all that great. I left my lackluster-memoir-qualifying food similes in my other pants. Bottom line here is what the Sterns eat turns out to be far more compelling than the manner in which they eat it. ...more
I'm the type of guy that if I see an Estelle Getty memoir lying around in a free book bin, I look around uneasily, grab it, and bolt.
It is exactly whI'm the type of guy that if I see an Estelle Getty memoir lying around in a free book bin, I look around uneasily, grab it, and bolt.
It is exactly what you would expect from an Estelle Getty memoir. No more, no less. It's a lot like being scolded in a lightly humorous fashion by one of your grandmother's weird elderly neighbors for about an hour and a half. I also learned that she's friends (circa 1988, at least) with Garry Shandling, and likes to make fun of his hair. Sometimes it's nice to know things like that. ...more
I think Joe Matt should do a Joe Matt version of everything everyone writes. But that's just me. Though few will argue that the man can draw, the evenI think Joe Matt should do a Joe Matt version of everything everyone writes. But that's just me. Though few will argue that the man can draw, the events and attitudes he conveys with his talents range from egotistical to mundane to downright repellent, some might even say bordering on psychotic. So much the better. Joe Matt thrives on exposing his basest instincts and embraces his seemingly many faults like beloved playthings. I have a feeling I'd get along with him really well, eventually regretting that we ever spoke while still looking forward to our next conversation. Or maybe he's nothing like this in real life, but for some reason I hope and believe that's not the case.
It just dawned on me that my two best male friends, both of whom exhibit selfish and vulgar qualities constantly and alternately delight and infuriate me at every turn, are actually named "Joe" and "Matt"! I just blew my own mind! ...more