*sigh* Sometimes you stumble onto a masterpiece, and it takes you completely by surprise. In this case, I had lunch with a friend I made over at the Adult Literacy League, who is also an aspiring author with a book in progress. Somewhere in the middle of our long meal where we realized we have about everything in common, she told me I had to read this book. Oh, Sandy, you like graphic novels and you think you might write a book someday before you die? Try this. You won't be sorry. OK, so I ordered it from the library. It arrived. It was big, like a coffee table book. It was over 200 pages long. And it was FULL of STUFF that made my brain buzz. I mean, look at that cover! What. the. hell. was. this?
Synopsis: OK, well, I'm going to try. Let's say this book is part biography. Lynda Barry recounts her life with a mother that is neglectful, violent, and negative. She has always longed to draw pictures and to be good at it. She fights off feelings of inadequacy, fears of embarrassing herself, and of failing. It is heart-breaking, but at the same time, what kid doesn't feel this way?
The book is part shrink. It asks questions that make you think. Questions that are aimed at making you dig deep and find inspiration. When did you first notice you were bad at something? And then what happened? Kids like making marks that make shapes that make stories. Why? What is a monster? Why are monsters in so many old stories? To follow a wandering mind means having to get lost. Can you stand being lost? What are toys? Did you ever have a toy that knew you? Do memories have mass? Do they have motion? Do they have inertia?
People, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The story is also a visual feast. Take a look at the pictures I have shared above. They look like a scrapbook of a deranged (but creative) mind. I just sat for hours, staring at what appeared to be illustrations of childhood monsters, pieces of material, pictures, clips of handwriting from old letters. Just a mass of stuff.
All of this slightly insane but thought-provoking material leads up to a sort of writing toolkit. She gives you advice...relax, get alot of lined paper and a good pen, a timer. She tells you that "thinking up stories is hard. Getting them to come to you is easier." She gives you exercises. Make a list of other people's mothers. Choose one and answer a list of questions. Maybe this is all elementary writing 101 material, but after having just rolled around in a land of Dali-esque collages, it seems like genius.
Of course, I didn't perform these exercises. I had a football game to attend and I needed to sleep. But I was moved. And I thought of all of my on-line friends out there that participated in NaNo last month. Of my friends that are working towards their first published novel. My friends that dig the visual delight of graphic novels.
My thoughts: Read it or miss out on something completely wonderful and unique and unexpected. If for no other reason that for the fun of it. That is all the thoughts I have.
5 out of 5 stars