SOPHIE CRUMB

EVOLUTION OF A CRAZY ARTIST

This is a unique volume, an artistic autobiography of year-by-year sketchbook drawings, ranging from the scrawls of a two-year-old to a fully developed vision.

The book’s publication will initially draw attention because of the 29-year-old artist’s parents, R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who made the selections with their daughter from thousands of previously unpublished drawings, saved and dated by her “compulsive archivist” father. But, as her proud papa recognizes, the real fascination with this book is the way it allows the reader “to track the development, the evolution, of a given human being through the medium of drawing…” He adds: “One can look at this book as a sort of clinical study, a psychological textbook.” The apple didn’t fall far from the familial cartooning tree, as the maturation of Sophie’s style attests, but this progression would be significant even if the artist had a different surname and background. What her mother calls her “wacky personal style” is fully evident by the age of four (“Family Peeing”). By seven, her imagination was capable of rendering a girl turning into a pizza slice, and by eight she had mastered a more realistic manner of drawing that could pass for a high schooler’s. By ten, she had her own comic strips and books (“WOW Comics! For kids only. Maybe if adults really want to read it they can!"), and through adolescence she used her art as a way to process not only the typical traumas but the shadow cast by a famous father (“The Legend”). Drawn at age 20, the three-step “Try to Do Away With Your Negative Thoughts” is as cathartic as cartooning gets. Ultimately, she concludes, “I figure if I can put all the abnormality, perversion and zaniness onto paper and still manage to be a partially normal mother to my kids, I will have done all right.”

A revelation.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-07996-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more