I love Julie Doucet's drawing style, but I was super distracted by the lackluster dialogue in these stories. I also found myself wishing for more of a...moreI love Julie Doucet's drawing style, but I was super distracted by the lackluster dialogue in these stories. I also found myself wishing for more of a story arc and a moment or two where Doucet would make some real sense out of the situations she found herself in. I would have been more captivated by these stories if they were nothing but Doucet's incredible drawings.(less)
I read this a few weeks ago & couldn’t put it down. It was one of the most depressing, heart-wrenching, thrilling, & hilarious reads I’ve expe...moreI read this a few weeks ago & couldn’t put it down. It was one of the most depressing, heart-wrenching, thrilling, & hilarious reads I’ve experienced in a long time. Part adventure story, part coming of age, & part murder mystery, CRUDDY is the story of teenager Roberta Rohbeson (aka Clyde), a puggy, boyish looking teenager born into an unfortunate family situation.
This novel is split between two narratives. There is the present story line in which Roberta meets new friends & sex interests & takes too many drugs, & there is the past story line in which Roberta is stuffed into the backseat of her father’s truck by her mother after he says he’s taking a business trip & is going to be gone for a long while. He doesn’t notice Roberta hidden in the back beneath a blanket until he’s pulled over by a cop. From then on, Roberta’s father (called “The father”) calls her Clyde & treats her just like the little boy she resembles.
As the present narrative unfolds, Roberta explains to us how she got to where she is now & we soon realize why the novel begins with a suicide note. I was amazed by how seamlessly Barry interweaves the present & past story lines. There is always something driving the narrative, making you anticipate what might happen next. Connections are always being made between the past & the present.
In the past story line, you want to know if Roberta & her father will find all three suitcases full of money & what trouble they’ll continue to meet along the way. In the present story line, you want to know if Roberta is going to fall in love & you cross your fingers that by the end of the story she’ll be happy, even though you’re almost certain she won’t.
Barry makes each character come alive in this novel through her beautiful black & gray charcoal illustrations & through each character’s own unique way of moving & talking to one another in the world. Each character has their own particular ticks & neuroses that make them loveable & memorable, as much as you may be made to hate some of them.
But what makes this novel most meaningful & enjoyable is Roberta’s particular way of storytelling, her sardonic & insightful voice:
"Where the mother was screaming at me was in the kitchen area. The walls look like gray velour from the layers of grease and dust. There are swaying cobwebs hanging. The refrigerator is very loud and it leaks and it shakes. The final thing to mention is the kitchen table with fake wood patterns which can look very lively when you are tripping on certain substances; you can see moving heads in the patterns, nodding at you, giving you advice. And even though the author was not on any substances while she was just getting screamed at, out of the corner of her eye she could still see the lively heads moving under the plastic surface of the tabletop. It turns out that once your mind gets expanded it is very hard to shrink it back down again…
…The father never treated me like a kid unless there was someone around. When the father looked at me, I do not know what he saw. Maybe a midget. Maybe an elf. I don’t think it ever entered his mind that I was a kid. He knew it, but he never thought it, and it was what a person thought that mattered. That was the stuff you could twist a dream around."
This book is waiting for you to read it again & again.(less)
A beautifully illustrated correspondence, but I have to say that overall I was disappointed with this little book. I guessed how it would end only a f...moreA beautifully illustrated correspondence, but I have to say that overall I was disappointed with this little book. I guessed how it would end only a few pages in and I was disappointed when my expectations were suddenly met. I was hoping that Bantock would subvert my early expectations so that the correspondence between Griffin and Sabine would be more interesting. However, Bantock doesn't take the time to do this. Instead the intimacy between the characters is rushed and Bantock's premise for the correspondence is too obvious too soon. Although the book is visually stunning, I most likely won't read it again because there isn't an interesting story here. If Bantock would have taken the time to build the relationship between Griffin and Sabine, rather than force the intimacy between them, then perhaps I would have found the ending and the overall concept more startling and interesting.(less)
This book is full of beautiful and interesting journal entries. I find it most useful to open up to pages randomly when struggling with writing and jo...moreThis book is full of beautiful and interesting journal entries. I find it most useful to open up to pages randomly when struggling with writing and journaling and seeing what happens from there. A friend let me borrow it, so unfortunately I have to give it back to her, but I have a feeling I will be purchasing / coming back to it sometime in the near future.(less)
I read this in about an hour and a half at work tonight; I couldn't put it down! I loved all the characters; I found their romantic relationships and...moreI read this in about an hour and a half at work tonight; I couldn't put it down! I loved all the characters; I found their romantic relationships and close friendships extremely compelling, entertaining, and sympathetic. Some reviewers called them overly whiny and overwrought, but I found them all to be hilarious and rendered all-too-real. Tomine doesn't necessarily provide answers for the characters' issues with race, socialization, or sexuality, but we are able to see that the main character, Ben Tanaka, perhaps comes to some realizations about these issues in the end for himself.
However, I was slightly disappointed with Tomine's open ending. I definitely felt that there was something left to be desired. For example, the last line of dialogue in the text, "Look...we all have our reasons," felt like the beginning to the denouement rather than the final resolution that was to conclude the story. Because of this, I have given "Shortcomings" four stars rather than five, but overall, I had such a fun time with these characters and this story. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick read on some lazy afternoon or evening when they are bored, or like me, furiously procrastinating.(less)
"What It Is" by Lynda Barry is part journal, scrapbook, sketchpad, self-help book, memoir, and writing exercise book, so I find it rather limiting to...more"What It Is" by Lynda Barry is part journal, scrapbook, sketchpad, self-help book, memoir, and writing exercise book, so I find it rather limiting to think of it as solely a journal. However, I suppose this book asks us to look at how we define the boundaries of a journal in the first place. "What It Is" is not a journal in the traditional sense. It is a journal that has been compiled with an audience in mind and with well-crafted pages in which the image often corresponds with the words, such as the narrative pages of Barry’s story about her artistic inhibition and her later freedom. I find the correspondence between Barry’s images and words in these narrative sections interesting as a few people have pointed out that they appreciated these sections the most. This is an important aspect of Barry’s project because it shows the power of image-word correspondence, and perhaps how images and words can compliment and reinforce one another.
The image-word correspondence is not quite as obvious on the other pages of "What It Is", but I found them fascinating nonetheless. I liked how they forced my brain to work harder than I do when just reading text as I was trying to find associations between the images and the words. I enjoyed this type of reading because it refuses linearity. My eye wandered around the page, completely stimulated, looking for order and understanding, yet I didn’t find it frustrating. Rather, I found it inspiring because it felt somewhat more organic, personal, and intuitive. In the end, I didn’t find it necessary to make sense of it; rather I enjoyed processing the image-word layers of each page.
I have had a similar experience with Sabrina Ward Harrison’s books. There is something about the organized chaos of her work, and her mentor SARK’s work, that I find completely inspiring and comforting. Perhaps it is because the collage and handwritten element of it makes it seem more “alive” as Barry might argue. Handwriting itself is an image that works to give form to a larger image and there is something about the individuality of Barry, Harrison, and SARK’s work that feels more personable, and because of that, more alive. Perhaps this is why journaling, particularly handwritten journaling, can be so therapeutic and why reading others’ journals is so interesting; we feel like we are being let into a private universe that is made public via our reading of it.
"What It Is" borders the line between a public and private document in that we are given pages that are purposefully rendered, such as the narrative sequences, yet we are also given pages at the end from Barry’s “actual” journal, which she kept while making the book. These pages are rougher and seemingly more spontaneous. Thus, by including these initial journal pages, Barry points to a layering here of initial artistic inspiration later molded by craft and thoughtful editing. I again found this comforting and inspiring because it calls attention to the journal as a place for beginnings, a place to be ugly, spontaneous, associative, nonsensical, sentimental, and a little crazy. As a writing teacher once told me, you have to let yourself be stupid in the composing process and to trust where your writing, or I would argue any artistic medium, is taking you. Otherwise, you may think yourself out of something fabulous.
I think this is what Barry is trying to get at when she instructs the reader to keep moving their pen or brush whenever they are blocked and can’t keep writing, drawing, or painting. Why not just enjoy the movement of your pen, pencil, or paintbrush and see what happens? This is scary because it requires a letting go of sorts and a trusting of the self that thinking does not allow. That’s why I love what Barry says on one of her initial journal pages at the end of the book. She says, “The thinking part of you / is not the doing part of you / or the experiencing part of you / The thinking part of you can / tell you that a decision has / been made but it’s not the / part of you which decides things / This is why thinking is not / the same as creating though / The thinking part of us seems / completely unaware of this” (207).
Although one might argue that Barry’s book is illogical or seemingly random, I think that it accomplishes far more than the typical journal. It forces us to question the difference of forms made by images and words, and it allows us to see what can be accomplished by combining them. Furthermore, Barry’s journal inspired me to continue really looking at things, even the most mundane old letters, stamps, and postcards for inspiration in order to shape how I see the world and what I find to be beautiful, ugly, upsetting, and exciting. I suppose in this way, I have already been keeping a journal similar to Barry’s, yet not quite as structured.
For example, over the summer, I received a lot of mail at my job, and I never saw so much interesting postage! I began to tear off the upper right hand corner of every envelope I received, and I collected them in my journal. I’m not quite sure why I initially did this, but I thought each stamp was so strange and unique, and it just made me happy to look at them in between my words as I flipped through the pages. These stamps were able to give form to a certain aspect of my summer that I didn’t think could be expressed any better in words, and in fact, I thought was better left alone. Perhaps this is why Barry’s seemingly random use of artifacts from others’ lives and its manipulation of those artifacts in order to make a page more interesting and beautiful is what I appreciate about it the most.(less)
This is the first graphic novel that I have ever read, and I had a great experience reading it. I appreciate the way Bechdel constructs her story; by...moreThis is the first graphic novel that I have ever read, and I had a great experience reading it. I appreciate the way Bechdel constructs her story; by jumping back and forth in time you feel as if you are joining her in making sense of her history.
I agree with another reviewer that her use of literary references can get somewhat tiring, but I have to commend her for the parallelism she is able to create between her own story and those of fictional characters that have been important in her life. I would definitely like to read this novel sometime again.(less)