The Graphic Novel. The pop sugar list had a graphic novel on it. I was dreading this part of the reading year. I don't generally read or like graphic novels. Oh wait, there was a brilliant one I read last year by Roz Chast called Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? about her parents aging and eventual residence in a nursing home. It was a heartbreaking, witty, memoir that resonated with a lot of what weighs heavily on my mind--end of life care and compassion.
So yesterday, I was thinking where oh where could I find a lovely book like that. I was dreading going to the teen boy section at the library, figuring that was where all the graphic novels were located. They are all about vampires and zombies and Thor, and I think there is a famous one about the Holocaust. So in my wildly prejudicial mind I was convinced that they were all for teenagers except that one by Roz Chast mentioned above. I was in a snit. Ugh! Then it dawned on me that not only were there lots of other graphic novels for middle aged women, but I might actually own a few.
Guess what!? I do own some. Books by the ever beautiful cartoonist and humorist and memoirist Lynda Barry and Alison (MacArthur Genius Grant Winner) Bechdel. They've been on my shelf for a few years, untouched. I pulled 100 Demons off the shelf and read it last night.
I had read Lynda Barry's comic strips in the Chicago Reader back when I was in college. She is a peer of Matt Groening of Simpson's fame who also came to fame in the LA Reader for his comic Love is Hell.
Ms Barry calls One Hundred Demons her autobifictionalography. Some is true; some is made up. I think this is probably true of all good writing.
The author recalls in drawing form how she came across a book from the zen masters called 100 Demons and in it the masters instruct you to draw the demon when it comes out of your head and thereby conquer it. She proceeds to sketch and tell the stories of her demons, mostly from her self-described awkward childhood: head lice, bad boyfriends, smells, dancing, regrets, her first job, cicadas, and much more. The writing and stories and pictures are really powerful. I cannot pick a favorite, but it would be fun to do some writing about my own 100 demons. She invited readers to pick up pen and ink and do the same. Me an artist?! I just have never considered it. But it is a compelling idea.
So I can check off Graphic Novel and I am so much the richer person for it.