So let me explain this post first: sometimes I go to a bunch of libraries all in one day. Yesterday I went to four different libraries across two different divisions, a county and a city. And the goal of all this is to find a handful of audiobooks (books on cd) to rip onto my computer. I do this for two reasons: audiobooks make up about half of the books I read because I have a 30 minute commute each day plus I show up to work an hour early, have a long planning period to close the day, and I listen as I walk, go to the gym, and do chores. All told I probably listen to 4-6 discs of audiobook each day.
I also tend to find comics, short books, and other interesting little reads to fill up my Saturday and Sundays. I tend to read my “serious” books on weekend mornings and weekday evenings, I read genre fiction as audiobooks or during “SSR” (Self-selected reading) periods with my students each day, and I read these kinds of book on weekend afternoons when I am sort of poking around the house but don’t feel like engaging in “serious” books for a while.
Adulthood is a Myth:
I love Sarah Andersen and have loved these comics for a long time. I think she is one of the best internet people and webcomics are consistently some of the best things that the internet has produced and has definitively replaced my old love for comic strips. Sarah Scribbles is a kind of Life in these Internets/Life in these Adventures of a Woman in her 20s kind of look at everyday life and everyday situations. The topics move from love and relationships, introversion, anxiety, body consciousness, cats, rabbits, reading etc. The comics tend to be visually cartoonish and the humor is relatively straight-forward and to the point, but still accurate.
Anyway, the most amazing thing about this collection is that she produced these in college while working on a degree. There’s a level of artistic/writerly maturity about them, a kind of confidence, that many writers never achieve, which is even more impressive given how informally stylized these can feel.
Big Mushy Happy Lump:
This is Sarah Andersen’s second collection of comics, and what stands out the most about these is that the daily parts of life that she illustrates have grown up away from college life, school, and even to a certain degree relationships. There’s a much bigger focus on anxiety and body issues, and she captures a lot about these topics without spending much time cutting into them at all. What I mean by this is take someone like Allie Brosh (also of important internet fame). In a lot of ways these two sets of comics share a lot of the same territory. The biggest difference though is that Allie Brosh writes long essays about serious topics like depression and punctuates them with jokes and ridiculous pictures. Also she talks about dogs too.
But Andersen addresses all those same topics, but cuts right to a joke in a way that neither puts direct pressure on that topic, nor ignores it, and instead presents an aspect of it in a funny way.
This is an interesting, if slight book, and generally falls into the categories of the kinds of book I am suspicious of. It’s a hardback picture book with a small, and short narrative poem tracing the journey of an immigrant/asylum seeker who goes on a boat to seek refuge and ends up drowning. The suspicious part, for me, is the length and cost of the book. But this one works for me, especially in comparison to a similar book, Fox 8 by George Saunders.
What works about this one for me is that there’s something actually to be gained through this one. Thinking about it less of a story and more of an argument, a chance to give voice to a drowned boy, but also a voice to a group that is by its very existence voiceless, is a worthwhile venture. In addition, the biggest difference between this book and the others is that each page of this book is presented with gorgeous, full color watercolor illustrations of the story. So more than a short stories with line doodles, it’s a sad picture book for adults. The narrative is written as a kind of letter to the boy and it’s written by Khaled Hosseini, of The Kite Runner and other novels.
Maneaters Vol 1:
This is a tongue in cheek parody of our current world. I worry that while the goal is admirable and the story potentially interesting, it’s way too clever for its own good. The premise is that teen girls, through a repression and suppression of their estrogen and mentrual cycles are slowly devolving or maybe evolving into big cats and as cats are attacking men.
This reminds me instantly of a few things. There’s a tweet going around recently as a response to an article by The Atlantic asking the question “Why is Rihanna killing men in videos?” to which a poster dunks “Why are men killing women in real life?” But more so, it’s a different, worse version of The Power by Naomi Alderman, what I thought was a very good novel.
So that’s where I worry about taking this seriously or not. It’s a less a novel idea than the book seems to think it is, and in being less good than another version it risks souring the pool a little. There’s some funny satire going on in the book — lots and lots of ads that work in response to fears that estrogen is damaging to boys, but even those are the same joke over and over. As for the actual story, there’s ok and good writing, but the plot is not great and the events we follow seem to be taking us down a familiar and predictable path. So the only thing I would say is that the audience is more clearly defined as teens, and maybe the on the nose-ness of it all works better.