Hammond (stories: Breathe Something Nice, 1997, not reviewed) definitely goes for the baroque here. Overwrought and crammed...



Incest, suicide, and a dead baby—who could ask for anything more in a first novel?

Theodora Mapes writes copy for the kind of children’s catalogues that feature perfect velvet dresses and wooden toys. She’s not amused by the irony when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant: any child of hers will have more than its share of psychological baggage. Her own mother, Marian, committed suicide when Theo was eight. Her cold, remote father denies it still, though he does admit his dead wife had a drinking problem. Theo can relate to that: she’s separated from husband Jackson, a phlegmatic midwesterner with an unquenchable thirst for beer. Living in southern California after leaving their Colorado home, Theo seeks the truth about the deaths of her mother and her baby sister Charlotte. The family is less than forthcoming: Dad says only that babies died more often in those days; older brother Corb is closemouthed to the extreme; even Evan, their garrulous former housekeeper, has nothing to add. Theo consoles herself with former boyfriend Gregg, churns out precious, adjective-laden copy, and continues her search for any concrete information about her mother’s demise. She happens upon a cache of medical and psychological evaluations and learns that Marian had attempted suicide several times, undergoing electroshock treatment and a stint in a mental hospital before succeeding. Then Theo finds her mother’s letters and discovers that not only had her grandfather raped Marian and younger sister Lyla, he’d done the same to four-year-old Theo. But wait There’s worse to come, as Marian’s correspondence continues with confessions of her own lurid misdeeds. Nothing daunted, Theo gives birth in due time to a daughter and showers her with healthy mother love and . . . milk.

Hammond (stories: Breathe Something Nice, 1997, not reviewed) definitely goes for the baroque here. Overwrought and crammed with often revolting detail.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-57962-034-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.


Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.


Satrapi (Embroideries, 2005, etc.) recalls the tragic final days of her great-uncle, an Iranian musician who died of a broken heart after his wife destroyed his favorite instrument.

Set for the most part in Tehran circa 1958, this graphic memoir tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan, a renowned master of the tar, an Iranian stringed instrument. A man of taciturn demeanor and moodiness, Khan believes himself too much of an artist to perform non-creative labor; he barely contributes to the household upkeep with either work or money. Not surprisingly, his firecracker of a wife doesn’t take well to this attitude and eventually cracks, snapping his beloved tar in two and sending Khan to his bed, where he grows gloomy and frets. This day-by-day reconstruction shows Khan’s wife and brother trying to rouse him back to the land of the living. But his artist’s pride (the tar was Stradivarius-like in its perfection) is not easily mended. As always, Satrapi’s artwork is simple and expressive, with its rich pools of black ink and swooping, lyrical curlicues. Only occasionally does she break out of a strict frame-to-frame design, but when she does, the results are breathtaking. One beautiful page depicts the family of one of Khan’s sons seated around the TV: In the top half, they’re happy and chatty, watching a woman sing; in the bottom, all is in perditious shadow, a bearded man lecturing on the screen, with the text reading simply, “But in 1980 war erupted and that was the end of happiness.” Unfortunately, the volume is so short that the story doesn’t have enough time to take root, and what could have been an emotional and heart-rending drama becomes instead an intriguing footnote.

A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-42415-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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