Learning To Love Lynda Barry

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Lynda Barry's character Arna, doodling in Picture This. Lynda Barry hide caption

itoggle caption Lynda Barry
Drawing

Lynda Barry's character Arna, doodling in Picture This.

Lynda Barry

So, I have to admit that I'm not familiar with the world of comics. My parents chose a really awkward time to have me, so I grew up with significantly older siblings and didn't do any normal kid things. When other children were watching Nickelodeon or something normal like that, I was in my room listening to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack (not even joking).

Keeping that background in mind, let me remind you that I know nothing about comics. So when I opened up Lynda Barry's new graphic memoir Picture This: The Near Sighted Monkey Book to prepare for today's show, I was overwhelmed and confused. I didn't even understand how to read it. The book mixes Barry's classic comics with watercolor, collage and lots of doodling. I’m thinking: do I read left to right, or top to bottom? Will I miss a plot point if I don't read the text on the newspaper clippings in the background?

But, as I got deeper into the book, it started to grow on me. Picture This is divided into different seasons (starting with winter and ending with fall) and by the time I got to spring, the ice on my closed mind started to thaw. By summer, I was hooked. Barry's new character, The Near Sighted Monkey, is hilarious and a terrible house guest. I actually laughed out loud because of some of the situations she gets into.

I also really started to appreciate her message that it’s really quite valuable to draw and write by hand. I realized that I believe that too. In my senior year of college, I started writing the first draft of all of my essays by hand, because I really got my thoughts out better that way. And it's true, I draw when I play with my nephew, but never on my own anymore.

When I talked to Barry on the phone, she explained that she wanted this book to be like the Highlights magazines that you picked up to suppress anxiety in the waiting room at the dentist's office — you can start on any page and it makes the time fly. So, even though I can’t go back and give myself a normal childhood, this book helped me get in touch with my inner child and realize the importance of drawing and movement. I came to understand that the book isn't something that you really need to read but something to experience. I’m very glad that I did.

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