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.
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