One artist’s mild childhood, told in episodic flashes.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a tale of growing up that trades neither in overwhelming nostalgia nor sheer, unmitigated dysfunction, so the publication of this illustrated memoir by Myrick (Bright Elegy, not reviewed) is especially welcome. The artist’s upbringing in a small Missouri town not far from St. Louis is chronicled in self-contained episodes identified by year, beginning in 1961 and ending in 1985. Each chapter is an evocative vignette that could almost stand on its own, and several have a Bradbury-esque glow, while darkness falls over some sections. In “My Father’s Hands,” which begins with the family dressing for court, Myrick’s oldest brother, “head bowed, hippie beard pressed against his chest,” gets a ten-year sentence for bank robbery. The most imaginative of these episodes compares his pregnant mother’s swollen belly to the distended shape of “one dying grandmother bulging with the death growing in her stomach,” then envisions the birth of the artist and his twin: “We enter the world, my brother and I . . . with the circle of life wobbling unsteadily. Attached to a grandmother we will never meet.” Most of these stories began as poems, and their elliptical lilt remains, accentuated by Myrick’s artwork (color by Hilary Sycamore), replete with haunted eyes and giant, toothy smiles. By the end, when his youthful self shakes off the past (“I feel the presence of my local gods waning”) and he heads for California, readers may feel wistful for a childhood they never experienced.
Short, gleeful and precise.