Monday, November 10, 2008

Lynda Barry's novel Cruddy is a fine piece of work, some of the same subject matter tread by Charles Burns' Black Hole pitched through a distinctive prose voice that reads like her drawings but used to describe a world darker than her drawings themselves could convey.

Lynda went to the same college as Burns, as well as Matt Groening. Some apocryphal anecdotes have Gary Panter having gone to college with either of the latter men, but those tales never mention the college in question, because Panter didn't attend The Evergreen State College. I don't think the four of them have ever really been brought into loose conflation, but I would like to do that now, and cite how exciting they all were, in their own way, particularly at a not-particularly exciting time for culture, the 1980s, and all work in their own way to articulate a very large sense of anxieties. There are no real commonalities shared by all of them, but certain things each have in common with each other in way or another at one point or another. Taken as a single entity, they pretty much define post-underground comics as a thing infinitely more interesting than what came before. (While Burns is easily the least interesting of them, his work as a variation on some of the same thought processes, in a way more classically refined, presents some food for thought.)

And Cruddy is a novel, a piece of prose, with its illustrations not really particularly of interest, but of a piece with a cartoonist's worldview, the same way that The Simpsons articulates things in a different way than Life In Hell did. I haven't finished it yet, but still, I can't think of a book that draws its characters so vividly and recognizably, but still depicts them fantastically. Her new book, What It Is, has a completely different feeling to it, another set of strengths, but the point stands: What a consciousness that lady has.

1 comment:

t. shirt said...

i read 'cruddy' when i was 17 and working at a barnes and noble. i lived in a town that i (and everyone else my age that i knew) hated in the suburbs of the ATL. that book fixed something in my brain at that time. i had no idea that 'Ernie Pook' existed, and was never as impressed with it as i was with 'cruddy' once i found out about it. just some thoughts...