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EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE by Gabrielle Bell Kirkus Star


by Gabrielle Bell illustrated by Gabrielle Bell

Pub Date: April 18th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-941250-18-1
Publisher: Uncivilized Books

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.