Everything Is Flammable, by Gabrielle Bell, Uncivilized Books (Minneapolis), June 2017, $25.95, mature teen to adult
Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.
It’s hard at first to put your finger on why the rambling, fragmentary work of Gabrielle Bell adds up to such a powerful whole. Her first full-length book, the new memoir Everything Is Flammable, drifts from her anxiety to her neighbors to her obsession with her garden. But the method to her accumulated mental wanderings becomes clearer and clearer as the book unfolds, and the sum total is well worth the wait.
Which isn’t to say that you have to wait long at all to appreciate Bell’s mastery of the form. The book begins with the one-page, six-panel vignette, “I’m Doing Fine.” As with any autobiographical work, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell if that statement were true. Witness her closing frame:
Continue reading “Everything Is Flammable, by Gabrielle Bell”
I’ve been gradually re-posting my archived material from the Elkhart Truth’s defunct Community Blogs. This week I’m resurrecting this 2014 review of Lynda Barry’s “Syllabus” because my Goshen-area readers have a unique opportunity to see some original pages from this work between now and December 31 at the South Bend Museum of Art. Barry and a slew of other comics luminaries are part of the exhibit “Best American Comics Selections: 2014-2017,” a showcase of work featured in the past three years of the anthology, which was added to Houghton Mifflin’s Best American series in 2006. You can also see original artwork from Chris Ware’s “Building Stories,” which was the very first book I reviewed on this blog.
While you’re there, check out the related exhibit “The Funnies: Vintage Comics 1940s–1960s,” which features classic strips from Archie, Peanuts, and Dick Tracy—the original superhero—to Brenda Starr, whose creator Dale Messick was born in South Bend. For that exhibit, do be prepared for some challenging racial and gendered visual stereotyping, which was “normal” for the time, but can feel out of touch and even offensive now. It’s fascinating to meander through these exhibits side by side, and see how far the genre has come.
Stay tuned for a review of Gabrielle Bell’s “Everything Is Flammable” in two weeks. If you’re feeling impatient, here’s a video of teaser of her discussing her early work for The Paris Review. Enjoy!
Draw for Your Life: “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry
Continue reading “Draw for Your Life: Review of “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry”
“It’s a marketing term. . . . The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book.’ Because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, [publishers would] stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel, you know?”
–Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and other acclaimed long-form comics, in a 2000 interview on blather.net
A lot of people ask me what the difference is between a comic and a graphic novel. In simple terms, a graphic novel is a comic with more “literary” goals than most serial comics. In the same interview cited above, Moore also lists “density, structure, size, scale, [and] seriousness of theme” as some of the qualities that might lead someone to classify a comic as a graphic novel instead. Continue reading “Comic or Graphic Novel? A Brief Primer on Terms”