zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Friday, July 11, 2008

What It Is by Lynda Barry


Sent to you by Jack via Google Reader:


via The Daily Cross Hatch by farfalla1278 on 6/17/08

What It Is
By Lynda Barry
Drawn and Quarterly

What It Is is many things. Part autobiographical comic, part watercolor and collage, part instructional manual, and part workbook, the book is that rare breed that tries to be many thing at once and succeeds in its own grand ambitions, transitioning from one section to the next rather gracefully. Author Lynda Barry successfully arranges the different parts of the book so that they compliment each other nicely, giving each other value and depth that they wouldn't necessarily have on their own.

What It Is would be far less interesting as a straight autobiography. Or just collage. Or a book about how to write. Barry's collage pages, which reveal some of the inner workings of her mind with their clever and thoughtful essay questions—"When images come to us, where do they come from?"—resonate with her autobiographical comics because of the thematic links she creates. The comics depicting Barry's personal struggle to find her own creativity and maintain it make the writing instruction section much less pedantic and much more exciting, because we know that she's struggled as we have. The existence of the book itself gives the how-to section credibility as well, because knowing that Barry has created such a fantastic work using the methods she teaches means there's gotta be something to it.

Granted, I am a writer who is a sucker for books that encourage and try to teach you how to write. But even if that's not your interest, What It Is is still worth a look, because Barry's amazing abilities as an artist and her great sense of humor shine throughout. The collage "essay question" pages, as she introduces them at the beginning of the book, are dense and take a while to appreciate. She spares us nothing, throwing in book and newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, painted and drawn pictures, and difficult questions at us all at once. But somewhere in the midst of them, you realize how impressive they are, in addition to which, alongside her comics, they prove her incredible artistic range. They translate the philosophical, thoughtful sensibility that has always pervaded her comics into much more complex, mature collage format.

The comics hold their own, though, and as always, Barry's caricature of her young self is fabulous for its unabashed awkwardness and complete lack of romanticization. Reenactments of young Lynda talking to herself as she pours over the paper on which she draws—"The lady goes to the volcano. It's exploding with lava. She is not afraid! She waves at her people and—Ahhh!"—are a welcome break from the philosophical musings of the main text. Barry's sense of humor is, at times, spot on in this book, making her comics funnier than ever.

At the very end of the book, Barry includes some of the pages from her side notebook—the pad she keeps at her side while working so that she will have a place to doodle and keep her pen moving when her mind draws a blank. These pages are the best part of What It Is. A chance to see someone else's doodles—the unaffected, spontaneous wanderings of someone else's mind—is rare, particularly someone as creative and talented as Barry. She has created a deliberately complicated book for our benefit, and the result is fantastic.

–Jillian Steinhauer


Things you can do from here:


No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog