Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass

Susan E. Kirtley
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Lynda Barry
    Book Description:

    Best known for her long-running comic stripErnie Pook's Comeek, illustrated fiction (Cruddy, The Good Times Are Killing Me), and graphic novels (One! Hundred! Demons!), the art of Lynda Barry (b. 1956) has branched out to incorporate plays, paintings, radio commentary, and lectures. With a combination of simple, raw drawings and mature, eloquent text, Barry's oeuvre blurs the boundaries between fiction and memoir, comics and literary fiction, and fantasy and reality. Her recent volumesWhat It Is(2008) andPicture This(2010) fuse autobiography, teaching guide, sketchbook, and cartooning into coherent visions.

    InLynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass, author Susan E. Kirtley examines the artist's career and contributions to the field of comic art and beyond. The study specifically concentrates on Barry's recurring focus on figures of young girls, in a variety of mediums and genres. Barry follows the image of the girl through several lenses--from text-based novels to the hybrid blending of text and image in comic art, to art shows and coloring books. In tracing Barry's aesthetic and intellectual development, Kirtley reveals Barry's work to be groundbreaking in its understanding of femininity and feminism.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-236-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Outcasts and Odd Ducks
    (pp. 3-14)

    Lynda Barry defines herself as an “odd duck” in an already outcast field—a woman in the male-dominated field of comics, a Filipino-Irish-Norwegian amongst a largely white group of artists, and a cartoonist who makes her audience cry just as often as laugh.¹ Yet Barry also frequently indicates her preference for outcasts, noting that she would rather “hang around oddballs and losers because they’re more interesting and they’re always better in bed.”² How does Barry’s position as an outsider influence her style and subject matter as an artist? To better understand this odd duck and her fascination with images of...

    (pp. 15-47)

    When asked about her childhood in an interview with Joe Garden, Lynda Barry responded, “It went on and on. Beyond that, um, I actually don’t like to talk about it much. I’m very glad it’s over.” Despite her reticence to discuss her early years, Barry’s childhood experiences clearly resonate throughout her oeuvre. From the keen observations of adolescence inErnie Pook’s Comeekto the detailed remembrances ofOne Hundred Demons, Barry demonstrates an acute understanding of what it is to be young. Barry’s youthful days were not easy ones, and she struggled, as nearly all of her heroines do, to...

  7. 3 Evolution of an Image: THE GOOD TIMES ARE KILLING ME
    (pp. 48-76)

    In her bookWhat It Is, Barry strongly emphasizes the importance of following and realizing an image through the creative process, which in her approach is a representation that may be realized through various mediums. Barry’s multiform projectThe Good Times Are Killing Meprovides an ideal opportunity to trace her process of interpreting an image through various genres, in this case, following Barry’s representation of girls experiencing racism through an art show, novel, and play. A close analysis ofThe Good Times Are Killing Mereveals an evolution of message and medium, with the early versions circling around ideas...

  8. 4 Through a Glass Darkly: CRUDDY'S GIRL IN THE FUN-HOUSE MIRROR
    (pp. 77-101)

    Lynda Barry employs her multifaceted perspective on girlhood throughout her career, tackling the image of the girl through various lenses and ways of seeing, but the most grotesque, macabre vision of girlhood emerges from her darkly comic, illustrated novelCruddy. This chapter considers the distorted, hyperbolic perception of girlhood as expressed in the fun-house hall of mirrors as represented inCruddy. Barry’s text-based interpretation of one girl’s life creates a warped journey through a maze of twisted mirrored images, a vicious road trip that invites the reader to envision his or her own picture of the girl as drawn from...

  9. 5 Girlhood under the Microscope in Ernie Pook's Comeek
    (pp. 102-147)

    Although she has worked in many forms, Lynda Barry is perhaps best known for creating the cult favorite comic stripErnie Pook’s Comeek. Marlys, Maybonne, and Fred Milton and the many popular characters from the strip have over time become synonymous with Barry. Throughout her oeuvre, Barry’s vision of girlhood explores the lives of girls through many lenses and mediums, and in her comicErnie PookBarry puts girlhood under a microscope, magnifying and examining tiny slices of life, and even these small samples exhibit a multifaceted perspective on girlhood. Barry pennedErnie Pook’s Comeekfor nearly thirty years, and...

    (pp. 148-178)

    To tell the truth of her own experiences as a girl, Lynda Barry found she had to lie, at least a little bit. When Barry turned her focus to exploring her own girlhood, she created a new comic form and structure offering the neologism “autobifictionalography” as the term to describe her approach to rendering the self in comic form. InOne Hundred DemonsBarry creates intimate snapshots of her multiple selves, with the girl “Lynda” at the center. In these strips Barry works with a longer, full-color format and experiments with new media, initially publishing the pieces online. When collecting...

    (pp. 179-193)

    After a turbulent, up and down career, Lynda Barry seems poised for a renaissance in popularity and critical acclaim.Chicago Tribunereporter Christopher Borrelli noted the important and underappreciated role Barry has played within the comics world in his 2009 article “Being Lynda Barry,” citing as evidence the words of renowned contemporary comic artist Chris Ware, who believes “Lynda was the first cartoonist to write fiction from the inside out—she trusted herself to close her eyes and dive down within herself and see what she came up with. We’d still be trying to find ways into stories with pictures...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 194-199)
    (pp. 200-210)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 211-217)