Everything Is Flammable, by Gabrielle Bell

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:

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Draw for Your Life: Review of “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry

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”

Review: Poppies of Iraq, by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim

Poppies of Iraq, by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim, Drawn and Quarterly, September 2017, list $21.95 (adult, maybe teen)

NOTE: Drawn and Quarterly sent me this book free for review.

It takes a few pages to settle into Poppies of Iraq, Brigitte Findakly’s memoir of her home country Iraq. The narrative is disorienting, seemingly jumbled at first. As Findakly recently told an interviewer for Comic Book Resources, “I wanted to share my memories in a way that felt like the reader was seated next to me, having a conversation with me. . . . I allowed myself to digress, especially when the current events in Iraq would capture my attention while I was writing the book.” Continue reading “Review: Poppies of Iraq, by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim”