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The Good Times are Killing Me

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,120 ratings  ·  100 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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Average rating 4.20  · 
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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 (Again)
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
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melody by: Katie Mitchell
Loved this! Barry is brilliant. One of her especial gifts, I think, is that she's retained the ability to pull out what her protagonist is focusing on with perfect tone. Sweat-stained armpits. Octopus furnace. Details that evoke age/time/place in a way that's entirely compelling. I loved the mini biographies at the end. My favorite part was the heartbreakingly poignant afterword.
Ed Erwin
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a prose novel, with small black-and-white sketch illustrations. I state this right away because the majority of Lynda Barry's publications are comics. (I'm shelving this as a "comic", just because....)

It is a bittersweet novel of a lonely 6th grader Edna in the late 60s in Seattle, dealing with the usual growing-up stuff with a special emphasis on her love of music, making friends, and changing race relations.
How can a song do that? Be like a net that catches a whole entire day, even a
Nov 30, 2008 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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, young-adult, race, music
Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me is different than One Hundered Demons; the latter is entirely comic/art based, while the former is mostly prose with a small drawing to start each vignette and the art work (collage, drawing, etc) more in the music album and afterword at the end of the book. The story in Good Times is threaded through with music, especially that special place music plays in young people's lives before things felt are properly named, before adulthood "defines" ...more
Jan 13, 2010 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
Geoff Balme
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The finest of chronicling that pre-teen and early teen mess of finding our way in a world of clumsy and imperfect revelations - Barry never misses a beat and has a memory for detail that'll make you connect like a bullet in a chamber. On Letterman a million years ago she said her favorite television was anything that had cell division in it. She's an unsung genius.
Cheryl Crotty
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this short book. It was written like a book report would have been written. I was brought up in the 50 and 60 when racism was very much alive and well. I also grew up in a neighborhood with parents who were struggling to make it as a family. This book took me right back there, including the feelings that would come from a song of those days. Music being how we communicated with each other. Phrases, church services and so much more packed into this little book. This was my first time ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are times when I wish Lynda Barry would write more prose fiction, but I'm not sure I could take my heart getting crushed by her characters on such a regular basis.
Stephanie Tournas
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I should start with a disclaimer - I am a huge fan of Lynda Barry and her comics. Her art manages to entertain and provoke, on a personal and social level. This book, a reprint of the original published in 1988, is a gem for the ages. Edna Arkins is a white adolescent in a gritty Seattle neighborhood in the 1960s. She become friends with a black neighbor, Bonna Willis, and describes the era and her family and relationships with humor and a uniquely rough sensitivity, which is so real and rich. ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, dark, quas-nostalgic and humourous, much like Ms. Barry's comic series Ernie Pook's Comeek... and to some extent her novel, Cruddy. The Good Times Are Killing Me tell the story of 1960's tween-ness in a downwardly mobile Civil Rights era Northern State U.S.A. The protagonist Edna deals with her burgeoning political and social awareness, discovers a love for music and attempts to forge and maintain a friendship with a black girl who lives in her neighbourhood.

All the hallmarks of
Oct 29, 2013 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 ...more
Feb 01, 2009 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 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 ...more
Jaina Bee
It is fascinating to go back and reread this earlier version of Lynda's autobiofictionography. The characters are so familiar to me, and i feel i know things about them that they hadn't yet revealed at this point. Things revealed in later publications. Lynda Barry's world is a real place for me, and i can never get enough of her guided tours.
Jul 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. Ever. It's beautiful and heart wrenching and deeply disturbing all at the same time.
Lisa Kelsey
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Lovely and sad and true.
god, lynda, how many times are you going to break my heart?
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Lynda Barry has complete access to the eleven-year-old psyche. Wonderful little book.
Kathleen Maguire
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love Lynda Barry so much, for her approach to teaching writing and for her own artful storytelling. This book struck me on so many levels: the narrator's relationship to her parents, the adults' relationships with each other, the narrator's emergence into adolescence and navigation of the contradictions between her youthful perceptions and the realities of the grown-up world.

Lynda Barry can seamlessly blend writing and visual art into a process of discovery. In this little masterpiece, she
Nov 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe this felt more groundbreaking when it was first published, but the autobiographicalish novellette with the impossibly naive narrator just seems kind of old hat now.

The frankness of addressing race and poverty is solid, but none of the insights or stories are that compelling, it all just sort of is.

Girl grew up poor and uncool and reflects back on it all in a faux-naïf voice to boldly state all the subtext. It just feels like there's no depth or mystery beneath it all. It's all plainly
Meghan Pinson
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
So very good. Belongs on the shelf with Sandra Cisneros's "House on Mango Street" Ntozake Shange's "Betsy Browne," and Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat books, plus all the Calvin & Hobbes and your own childhood diaries. I came to this novel after listening to an interview with Lynda Barry on a CBC Radio podcast four times in two days and doing her Writing the Unthinkable practice every time I sat down to write over the past twelve years. I thought all she wrote were picture books; now I'll ...more
Maritza Ruby
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
While I can embrace the narrator's journey of music, family, and friendship, the novel felt incomplete and lackluster. Particular details could've been revisited and used to amplify a deeper meaning towards music and race. The plot and development of characters felt too rushed, but then again I'm not quite familiar with Lynda Barry's style and work with comics. Overall, this novel excels at providing a precise glimpse of childhood wonders and the ever-present sting of racism.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Little short chapters that lift you up by the britches and plant you straight into a stormy childhood. The pages are full of worn-out adults and kids who are trying to make friends, have a blast if possible and make sense of the world around them. A fantastic writing written from kid-brain mode. Every chapter a treasure. A steady account of rock-um-sock-um childhood survival set in the thick of racism idiocy, hot tempers and kids who can be downright mean. I loved it.
Abbi C
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting read - Barry does great work writing from the perspective of a child/adolescent. The story jumps around a lot and is abruptly cut off at the end. Then theres a section with short blurbs about musicians and musical genres that doesnt really fit with the theme of the story. Im still feeling a bit puzzled. ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was fun to be inside the head of a 12 year old girl at around the same time I was a 12 year old girl. She felt very real. So real that calling this a novel, as the publisher blurb does, just feels wrong. Edna's music notebook at the end was great too.
Elizabeth Chorney-Booth
Parts of this was lovely, but I wanted to like it more than I actually did.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
2.5 stars, really. I love Lynda Barry, but I had a hard time getting through this. But, when it was good, it was great.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun read! Down to earth, funny, honest, quirky, educational, real. I read it in one evening after I finished Atwood's The Testaments. Great palate cleanser.
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500 Great Books B...: The Good Times are Killing Me - Lynda Barry 1 8 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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