I have been a huge fan of Flannery O'Connor's literary output for a long time, but somehow it escaped my knowledge that she was, in and around her proI have been a huge fan of Flannery O'Connor's literary output for a long time, but somehow it escaped my knowledge that she was, in and around her prose scribblings, also a practiced cartoonist. She did drawings for publications in her high school and college careers and became well-known among her peers for doing so. Her characters are a bit grotesque, fat and skinny in excess, bending at impossible angles, and all saying wry and ironic things to each other. Even if you don't care for comics, if you love O'Connor's work you will recognize her point of view immediately.
Having said that, the way this book is set up is extremely weird. It presents all the cartoons, one per page with zero explanation, and then ends on a lengthy, dry epilogue with all the contextual information the reader lacked before. It will even refer to specific drawings that the author feels were particularly skilled or notably autobiographical, and then not reprint the drawing next to the reference, or even give a page number so you can glance back. Wouldn't the entire biographical section have been better implemented as a companion to the drawings instead?...more
I like Sloane Crosley's books because I appreciate her point of view, and because we are exactly the same age, so her references to her childhood areI like Sloane Crosley's books because I appreciate her point of view, and because we are exactly the same age, so her references to her childhood are sources of nostalgia for me. In her last book, it was Caboodles makeup carriers; in this book it was the Girl Talk board game with the zit stickers. Comparing Crosley to more successful essayists is a fool's errand. She's no David Sedaris. Her work is less insightful, and not as tightly narrated. But it is witty and diverting, and sometimes that's good enough.
The best essays in this book are the ones where Crosley travels: the first essay is about a spur-of-the-moment trip to Portugal, another describes a trip to visit a friend in Paris, and another details a trip to a friend's wedding in Alaska. Crosley's wit is strongest when she's a fish-out-of-water, and Alaska as well as most of Europe seems to flummox her entertainingly. Alaska especially seems like a bewildering wonderland of trees, lakes, wildlife, and big puffy jackets.
Unfortunately, Crosley ends the book on the worst of her essays--or more specifically, a fine essay that highlights Crosley's most objectionable qualities. "Off the Back of a Truck" tells the dual stories of Crosley's adventures furnishing her apartment with stolen merchandise and a disastrous relationship with a dishonest guy. The narrative is very yuppified New York, and makes Sloane the protagonist look callous where she seems to want to present herself as conflicted. The wailing about the man who betrayed her is a bit insufferable. There's insight to be had from a broken relationship but I don't think she finds it. (Also, I don't generally criticize the life choices of memoirists--that's not what literary criticism is, and most authors aren't writing for general approval--but there are some elements in Sloane's relationship with that guy that are fishy. She describes how she gets set up with him because they have literally dozens of friends in common. But then she is shocked after a year of dating him to find that he has a live-in girlfriend. How did not a single one of those common friends tell her this right away?)...more
I loved Calvin and Hobbes when I was a child. There was a simple, sharp sense of humor--a kind of smart-silly--that spoke to my temperament. I will neI loved Calvin and Hobbes when I was a child. There was a simple, sharp sense of humor--a kind of smart-silly--that spoke to my temperament. I will never forget the paroxysms of laughter that struck me at about ten years old, reading the strip where Calvin sneezes explosively into a hanky, then peeks at it and declares "Whew. No brains." (That one is not in this book unfortunately. But it will forever be my definitive Calvin & Hobbes moment.)
If life gets too boring for Calvin, he imagines himself having space adventures. If something doesn't make sense to him, he asks 'why?' What struck me reading this again as an adult is the adorably anarchic spirit of Calvin and his constant companion Hobbes. Whether they are riding their wagon down a steep hillside (crash landing be damned) or negotiating their own moral code through shrewd conversation, they have no fear.
Some particular Calvinisms--eating his morning cereal and watching cartoons buck naked, for example--struck me as such classic Little Boyisms that after finishing this book, I gifted it to my sister who is currently raising two boisterous boys. I hope she has as much fun with it as I did....more
David Sedaris is easily the best memoirist working today. He has this way of employing bright, charming prose to tell stories that are as funny as theDavid Sedaris is easily the best memoirist working today. He has this way of employing bright, charming prose to tell stories that are as funny as they are poignant. Also, listening to his works on audiobook (he reads them himself) are a special treat; Sedaris is a gifted performer, especially when reading in the persona of his own family members.
My favorite selections in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim were "Rooster at the Hitchin' Post" and "Put a Lid on It"--each about one of Sedaris's particularly odd siblings--and "Hejira," an affecting story about Sedaris being kicked out of his parents' house for being gay. He assumes, heartbreakingly, that he's been removed from the house because he's always stoned and refuses to get a job; only when his mother tearfully apologizes does he recognize the actual situation.
"Six to Eight Black Men" is also a (holiday-themed) classic....more