Devoured this absorbing and beautifully illustrated graphic memoir in one big Saturday night reading binge and throughly enjoyed it. Until her early a...moreDevoured this absorbing and beautifully illustrated graphic memoir in one big Saturday night reading binge and throughly enjoyed it. Until her early adulthood, Nicole Georges believed her father had died when she was a baby. In fact, that's what everyone in her family told her and she had no reason to doubt them. Then she visited a psychic who told her that her father was still alive -- and unlike all the psychic's other predictions, it turned out this one was true.
For those not already familiar with Georges' work as an independent cartoonist and zinester, I might describe this book as Fun Home set in a episode of "Portlandia" -- the vegan-friendly, lesbionic version of "Portlandia," to be precise. But that flippant categorization doesn't do justice to the real emotional impact of the book -- Georges is very honest about her feelings of confusion, fear and paralysis after learning from her older half-sister that the psychic's revelation was indeed true and her entire family had concealed the truth from her for years. In some ways, the book is less about the search for her father than her complex and fraught relationships with her mother and her girlfriend Radar, who encouraged Nicole to seek the truth about her dad. I really love Georges' drawing style which is very lush and atmospheric, kind like a more sedate Dame Darcy, when depicting her current life in Portland. There is a great panel of her sitting in a hammock in her backyard, flanked by chickens and holding a broom, with a pensive expression on her face that nicely encapsulates the yearning, slightly overcast mood of the whole book. In a particularly effective illustrative technique, Georges switches to a simpler, more cartoonish drawing style when she recounts scenes from her childhood, some of which are very painful and revealing. It's a perfect example of how comics can evoke a feeling or mood through drawing style alone. The stark simplicity of these drawings mirrors the way childhood memories sometimes feel, the granular details of important events often erased, leaving only lines that have etched themselves on our consciousness and profoundly shaped our self-conceptions.
Full disclosure: I know Nicole through our mutual friends in the PNW zine/comix and queer indie/punk scenes. That world is lovingly and vividly depicted in this book, and it all rang very true to me. It was fun to recognize many familiar PDX haunts in her illustrations. Yet I can see how people with no familiarity or interest in those subcultures might not find those details so captivating. I'm not sure that this book will resonate as deeply with all readers, but I would recommend it those who enjoy memoirs about unraveling family secrets and stories featuring unusual female characters who aren't afraid to share difficult personal truths. A must read for fans of Allison Bechdel and Michelle Tea.(less)
Yet another disappointing Seattle Reads selection. In 2013, only a few months after gay marriage was legalized in Washington, it feels really retrogra...moreYet another disappointing Seattle Reads selection. In 2013, only a few months after gay marriage was legalized in Washington, it feels really retrograde to read the story of a closeted gay man filtered through the voice of his self-righteous, self-pitying straight adult son. The author was clearly hurt by his father's deceptive behavior and the pain it caused his mother and their family, and he certainly has a right to those feelings. But hurt feelings alone do not make a compelling narrative. Indeed, this book read more like a series of personal journal entries haphazardly strung together than a memoir. The father's story (a gay man who was sexually abused by his father as a child and spent most of his adult life in the closet, slipping out of the house at night to cruise for anonymous sex) was much more interesting than the son's, but we only catch it in glimpses, through the searing lens of the son's harsh judgment of his father. I think that judgmental, hectoring tone was what bothered me the most about this book. Not only is Martin angry at his father for betraying his mother and his happy childhood memories, he is angry at his father for not displaying his queer self (once he is outed) in a way that suits Martin's smug liberal self-satisfaction. Martin is extremely annoyed with his father's evasiveness concerning his sexual partners, his dating activities, and other aspects of his personal life once his father is separated from his mother and is technically "out of the closet." He is constantly pushing his father to acknowledge his sexuality as a crucial (perhaps the crucial) piece of his identity -- but it is not clear from the snippets of his father's emails and dialogue that are included in this book that his father necessarily regards that part of himself as the key to who he is. We will never really know the father's story, however, since as Martin acknowledges in one chapter, this is not his father's memoir. Too bad, because that story, fully told, would have been much more memorable than the one contained in this slight, self-indulgent, and heterosexist book.(less)
What a fantastic little book! For cyclists, reading this book is the next best thing to being on a bicycle. Fournel captures the joys, frustrations, a...moreWhat a fantastic little book! For cyclists, reading this book is the next best thing to being on a bicycle. Fournel captures the joys, frustrations, and pure exhilaration of bicycling in the charming droll way that only a Frenchman can. For example: "Every cyclist, even a beginner, knows that at any moment in his life he could have a rendezvous with a door. . . As an urban cyclist, I have a complete collection." What a funny and poetic way to write about getting doored (which is not at all a poetic experience, as those who have experienced it firsthand know)! And this: "The difference between bike and flight is that the bike is possible, and flight isn't, yet."
Overlook all the insider references to former French Tour de France champs and gear ratios, and I think anyone who's ever ridden a bicycle will find something to enjoy in this book -- something familiar and true about the essence of cycling that transcends your level of commitment to the sport. Each chapter is a few pages long, so this book is perfect bathroom reading material -- which is where I first found it, at a friend's house. I'm so glad I did, and I hope you check it out too. (less)
A heartwrenching account of one woman's shattered life in the aftermath of 9/11. Torres shares her pain, grief and anger after the loss of her husband...moreA heartwrenching account of one woman's shattered life in the aftermath of 9/11. Torres shares her pain, grief and anger after the loss of her husband (whose first day at Cantor-Fitzgerald was September 10, 2001) in this compelling graphic memoir. Her description of her battles to receive compensation from the American Red Cross & other relief organizations was particularly eye-opening -- I had read stories like this before, but her personal narrative really brought the frustration home in a way the news reports hadn't. I'm not a huge fan of Choi's drawing style, but I would highly recommend this book to anyone. (less)
Peeters is a master of the brush, and a gifted storyteller as well. His account of life with HIV-positive Cati & her toddler son is moving and ins...morePeeters is a master of the brush, and a gifted storyteller as well. His account of life with HIV-positive Cati & her toddler son is moving and inspiring, without ever becoming maudlin. One of the better graphic memoirs I have read recently.(less)
A mixed bag. Rodriguez is perhaps too much a poet for me -- the blatant lyricism felt strained & overwrought at times. I am highly allergic to tha...moreA mixed bag. Rodriguez is perhaps too much a poet for me -- the blatant lyricism felt strained & overwrought at times. I am highly allergic to that kind of writing, although I know it's appealing to many. Also, I found the discontinuity in the narrative jarring & difficult to follow at times -- Rodriguez jumps back & forth across his teenage years so you don't really get a coherent sense of his development & changing attitudes towards his community & gangs. None of the other people he describes come across as full-fledged individuals -- while Luis's voice is strong and often riveting, the other people in his life seem one-dimensional and ultimately forgettable.
For me, the strongest parts were his descriptions of racism he experienced as a Mexican immigrant and confrontations with the police and other authority figures. (less)
Dear Dave Davies: I don't know. You are a brilliant guitar player, you wrote some great songs, and you seem like a pretty decent guy. I loved hearing...moreDear Dave Davies: I don't know. You are a brilliant guitar player, you wrote some great songs, and you seem like a pretty decent guy. I loved hearing the stories behind songs like "See My Friends" and "David Watts" and "Arthur" and your evident love for your family, friends & country is charming. But when you started talking about your psychic powers and telepathic communication with invisible beings from outer space, you kind of lost me. So you get only 2 1/2 stars, sorry. Next time, maybe just stick to the rock. Thanks, your fan, Abby.
p.s. You did sum up the appeal of the Kinks' music quite nicely in this passage, though:
"Kinks music is people's music. It is simple, sad, poignant music for lovers, and especially lovers who have lost . .It is riding a number 41 bus to Holloway Road. It is dancing in a deserted ballroom. It is about being thrown into a situation with people you have absolutely nothing in common with and trying to make it work." (less)