A provocative, moving, and darkly funny book that seems almost worth the crises that it chronicles.

EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE

The latest from one of the finest contemporary graphic artists.

Few cartoonists can match Bell’s (Truth Is Fragmentary: Travelogues & Diaries, 2014, etc.) eye for evocative details, but the words of her narrative fill practically every available space, an outpouring from the artist who confesses, “sometimes the anxiety creeps up and suddenly starts to strangle me.” If her life at the subsistence level of artistic renown seems a little dysfunctional, that of her mother seems even more so—especially after a fire destroyed her mother’s home, leaving her living in a tent on the lawn, and Bell had to travel across the country to help her put her life back together. There’s ambivalence about the visit from both sides: “It’s hard to be there in normal times, and I’m prone to cruelty under duress.” Bell also worries that she exploits her mother for material, which she does, of course, like she does everyone and everything else in her life. The trip to the Pacific Northwest introduced a whole range of challenges—packs of dogs and cats and bears—and a mission to get her mother a house built and stocked. The author also conducted a series of interviews with the characters who fill this volume, most of whom have murky motives and histories. This certainly includes her mother, with whom she discusses the troubled home life and the pregnancy that spawned the author: “It’s a paradox,” the author replies to her mother, after discussing the considered abortion. “On the one hand, I wish you’d had access to a safe, legal abortion. On the other hand, I’m glad to exist!” Eventually, Bell’s mother got her home and life back, and the artist returned to her own apartment—but then the cycle began again, as the title of the memoir underscores.

A provocative, moving, and darkly funny book that seems almost worth the crises that it chronicles.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941250-18-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more