'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection Veteran cartoonist Jules Feiffer has just written his first graphic novel, the noirish Kill My Mother. Reviewer Alan Cheuse is discovering graphic novels equally late, but still finds it a good read.
NPR logo

'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/341879944/344328057" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

Review

Book Reviews

'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/341879944/344328057" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Jules Feiffer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. He's been drawing cartoons and publishing books for decades, and at age 85, he has taken a new turn in his career. He's just published his first graphic novel. It's called "Kill My Mother." Here's reviewer Alan Cheuse.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Before I picked up this dark confection by Jules Feiffer, I thought that comic books belonged to my childhood and that Ulysses was the only book I had read twice to fully understand. Turns out, this graphic novel or comic book for adults, as I think of these things, may progress in linear fashion - left to right and then down, left to right again. But for most of its pages, it's a lot more complicated than it seems on first reading.

The story begins the 1930s, in the aftermath of the death of a policeman in southern California. While the cop's widow, a blonde named Elsie, goes to work for an alcoholic private eye - her late husband's pal - her daughter Annie feels abandoned. And she takes up raucous games and shoplifting in the company of a young friend named Artie.

The drawings in the story become more complicated when on the run from a department store detective. The two teenagers find themselves rescued by a tall gaunt street person - a woman in a dark cloak wielding a baseball bat. Annie rescues her rescuer from the life the street, while her mother tries to find a mysterious, tall blonde whom the detective has been hired to track down. Gunplay flares up when Elsie picks up a pistol to protect herself from a menacing gang of street thugs. And the drunken detective - he dies by gunshot wound.

After that murder, the story becomes filled with so many ambiguous turns and false identities - cross-dressing and disguise - that you may feel, as I did, that you're watching a dark and moody noir film out Raymond Chandler with a script by William Faulkner. Though it's easy on the eyes, mainly because of Feiffer's by now familiar and quite endearing style of drawing wide-eyed rangy-limbed figures, usually mostly comic, expressing joy or, as mostly here, distress. Figuring this one out is a real brain twister.

SIEGEL: The book is "Kill My Mother." It's a graphic novel by Jules Feiffer. Alan Cheuse had our review.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.