[Monday Reading] All Hail to Legendary Lynda Barry

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! You still have a few months left before the year ends to win book prizes.

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Here is the sign up page and the September-October linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick courtesy of Pansing Books.

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Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

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I think I first learned about Lynda Barry nearly two years ago, and I made sure I bought her Syllabus when I found the graphic novel in New York. I also requested our NIE Library to purchase her One! Hundred! Demons! for my higher-degree class. And now, I am on the hunt for more of her titles.

IMG_5604One! Hundred! Demons!

Written and Illustrated by: Lynda Barry
Published by: Sasquatch Books, 2002
Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

When I discovered from reading the first few pages of the book that Lynda Barry was part-Filipina, I squealed aloud (yes, I am excitable that way). Talk about mirrors and windows in literature – it was those bits and pieces of a shared culture that made me fall even more in love with Lynda Barry’s fearless and deceptively-simple writing juxtaposed with visual stimuli that may either overwhelm the senses or make one pay close meticulous attention to the tiniest of details that appeared to have been given a great deal of thought.

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There are seventeen stories found in this threaded collection excluding her Intro and Outro where she talked about her creative process. She calls this an “autobifictionalography” which is immensely interesting as I keep trying to figure out which ones of her stories are real and which ones are imagined – but then again, aren’t all of our stories a deliberately-random mix of true and illusory?

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Each story is wrapped around a demon from her past (or present) and Lynda goes on to exorcise these creatures from her system through comic art. The fascinating thing about her narrative is that one can sense the center of truth pulsing deep within the words, all the more funny or heartbreaking because it is so real. While there may appear to be a visual overload in her pages, I find that there is fascinating order to her chaos. I also especially loved those stories where there were references to long-ago visits to the Philippines and the etiology/characterization of head lice or “kuto” as we call it in Tagalog:

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And I can not help but love her Grandmother and her philosophical insights about people’s odors in response to a White woman’s racial segregation of people according to smells. Then of course there is the actual demon from the Philippines: the aswang, which from the way she described it in this graphic novel sounded more like a manananggal and a mixture of other Filipino shape shifting creatures besides the aswang.

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Yet, it’s really the monsters lurking in her mother and grandmother’s memories that are paramount here in this vignette. The one story that made me wistful was Dancing:

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How wonderful would it be to strip away all self-consciousness entirely and to just embrace both the spaz the silly the odd the strange and the beautiful altogether, and simply be. I suppose this is what made me love One Hundred Demons, as it encouraged the reader to simply be in a particular moment, face one’s demons, and pin them down in a page and write words and frames and little anecdotes around them, such that they lose their power over you.

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental ProfessorIMG_5616

Written and Illustrated by: Lynda Barry
Published by: Drawn & Quarterly, 2014
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Syllabus is a generous sharing of a brilliant teacher about her own Syllabus, Course Description, Assignments, Resource Materials, and her students’ growth throughout a few semesters of teaching several different courses (What It Is: Art/ English/ Theater & Drama 469; The Unthinkable Mind: Art + Science + English; Making Comics and Other Graphic Formations – among those which I was able to catch):

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I read this book while on the plane going to Perth (five hour flight) and I simply can not put it down and finished it before even reaching Australia. I have always wanted to draw and have always lived and breathed art, but I only make random figure-less doodles during meetings where I just allow my fingers to lead where it takes me and I enjoy those little creative forays – but I never really produced anything figural that can readily be identified and be perceived/judged as beautiful. And so when Professor Lynda Barry that these are exactly the kind of people she was looking for in her class, my heart skipped a beat:

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I also loved learning about her rituals in class: having students memorize poems by heart (Emily Dickinson! Rumi!), doing a 2-minute self-portrait as part of students’ attendance,

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and the many writing and drawing exercises she had them do – complete with the materials that they need:

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I also love the introspective questions that she raised that are meant to be fodder for the students’ art:

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and the significance of poetry in one’s life:

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I felt that there was such a generosity of spirit in how she crafted her Syllabus, which in and of itself is a staggering work of art – how captivating to learn about her process (both its structure and flexibility), her intentions (both noble and ignoble), and her many reflections (never condescending but always encouraging and affirming). Definitely a keeper. I will go back to this again and again.

Currently Reading…

I finished reading two graphic novels last week! Hooray!

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky and The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew.

This week, I hope to finish reading The Circle by Dave Eggers for my book club (GatheringReaders at NIE) which will be meeting next week. So far, it’s a really riveting read.

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I also hope to read this graphic novel before I return it on Sunday:

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In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way – A Graphic Novel by Marcel Proust. Adaptation and Drawings by Stephane Heuet and Translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

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BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM: NEW
Eisner Award for One! Hundred! Demons! (2003)

#AWBRead2015 Update: 89 (35)

  1. Myra nice to catch up with the teaching world again. One! Hundred! Demons! looks fabulous, it is the kind of book I would have bought for my class as they would love it. Especially as I had many students who had come from the Philippines.

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  2. nice post! loved the pictures.. cool! Happy Monday!

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  3. It does look like organized chaos! I like the different fonts in the writing.

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  4. I have Lynda Barry’s ‘What It Is”, but must admit I have barely looked at it. Guess from your review of these others that I should get reading! Thanks, Myra.

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  5. Thank you for introducing me to Linda Barry! These two titles are going on my Christmas wish list!

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  6. I too will have to look for Linda Barry. Just reading your posts about both of these books has sent me careening into my past and thinking about how I used to love to draw and write.

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  7. I’d never heard of her. I’ll have to look for her work. Thanks!

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  8. What a fun week you had! Thanks for sharing the bits of the graphic novels…and enjoy the new week. Here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

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  9. I am still working my way through Lynda Barry’s works. There is so much look at! I really loved Nimona. I wish there was more. Have a great week! ~Megan

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  10. Wow – a great week for you.

    I hope this week is good too. ENJOY!!

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    My It’s Monday, What Are You Reading

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  11. These look like books to be explored and revisited – you need to savor each page and work through the initial sensory overload to discover all the hidden treasures on each page. I adore books like this – artists like Barry respect their readers, they don’t “dumb things down”, but expect that we’ll be able to make sense of the material in our own ways. Thank you for introducing me to Linda Barry, I am so curious now to explore her works!

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