“You two are GETTING MARRIED??? Oh man, I LOVE being married!!!”
Long story short, we took a detour on our way back home last night and ended up at a bar with Lynda Barry, Dan, and a bunch of other nice Oberlin folks, talking about marriage, writing, world-building, video games, ink sticks, George Saunders, smoking, and Skoal rings.
Lynda gave a downright marvelous talk and reading of her novel CRUDDY to a packed lecture hall at the Oberlin Science Center. “I feel like this must be the Make A Wish Foundation,” she said, admiring the audience. “I have a tumor right?”
Lynda lives in rural, southern Wisconsin. “I’m the daughter of a meat cutter and a Filipino house cleaner. Most people look at me funny when I say I’m half Filipino, but Norwegian blood will suck the color out of anything.”
There was little talk of comics, and a lot of talk about writing. For her, telling a story in images is the most important thing. “When you’re in that image state, the language takes care of itself.” She outlined a process of telling the story of your life with an image–a car, for example–focusing on that image, and then describing the world around it. I mentioned to her my ideas about worldbuilding and she said, “People ask me if my stories are autobiographical. I say, ‘my stories aren’t, but my settings are.'”
She talked about “the state of play,” and the importance of play in our creative endeavors. “I love kids, man. They can teach us so much.” She said its essential to recapture that youthful, unfettered creativity that we all possess as children. On English class: “There’s nothing wrong with taking apart stories, but for the longest time I thought that was how you put them together.” On that pesky editing monkey on the writer’s shoulder: “When did the asshole become the voice of reason?”
She’s wary of computers and a champion of drawing and writing by hand. “In the digital age…don’t lose your digits!” She said when writing her second novel, the computer was a burden, making it too easy to delete things. After ten years of working on it, she decided to start writing the novel with her Japanese brush, and it worked like magic.
Later on, I told her I worked on the computer to do my woodcut-styled comics. “Yeah, but you use a Wacom tablet,” she said, “so at least you’re still drawing.”
I mentioned to her that James Kochalka, another great cartoonist, also emphasizes the importance of play, but that his emphasis comes from his love of video games. “I don’t know about video games, man. But I trust young people. That many young people can’t be wrong.”
What else can I tell you about the woman? She spent an hour signing books and talking with her fans. She likes to sing. She can even sing with her mouth closed.
Erica sent me this link. Great, just great, writing and drawing. Wow.
Thanks, Laurie! See you soon…
I have had a huge crush on Lynda Barry for years. She’s amazing — have you read One! Hundred! Demons! yet? If not, I think I have an extra copy. Email me and I’ll send it to you, cuz you’ll adore it.
Once I ordered some minicomics from Tom Hart (Hutch Owen, the Sands, etc.) and he sent them to me in a doubled-up big manila folder. I undoubled it and found that he was reusing an envelope that Lynda Barry had sent to him (and doodled on a little). I still keep that envelope, maybe I’ll frame it or something — two of my favorite cartoonists ever.
one! hundred! demons! is excellent–i like it a lot
that’s a great story about Hart–he’s great, too.
Austin Kleon says
Not at all Cruddy, Some Good Times With Lynda Barry
Barry’s Riotous Lecture Elicits Audience Laughter
from the oberlin review: http://www.oberlin.edu/stupub/ocreview/2006/04/21/arts/article4.html
By Anna McGlynn
Dear anyone who finds this: Lynda Barry came! She came and gave a lecture on Monday at exactly 7:34 p.m. The lecture was supposed to start at 7:30 p.m., and like tons of people were waiting and thinking “Where is Lynda, Where is Lynda?” because she was nowhere to be found. Was she even going to show up at all? But she was doing that special thing that gives you creepy chills when you’re watching a scary movie, that super cool thing all good writers can pull off without a hitch: suspense.
And suddenly, without further adieu, poof! There she was, Lynda Barry, the author/cartoonist of a million great works like The Good Times Are Killing Me, One! Hundred! Demons! and Cruddy — not to mention the long-time friend of Matt Groening and totally groovy chick! Yesss, yesss, yesss! She rose up from behind the podium to surprise us all like a rabbit from a magician’s hat and everyone burst like fireworks into jubilant applause.
The attention must have been pretty surprising to Barry, because she got kind of red in the face and for a moment it looked like she was going to turtle-up on us, but she didn’t. In the blink of an eye, she transformed from a shy, middle-aged woman to stand-up comedian with boundless energy.
“I always sweat enormous amounts when I get nervous,” she said, fanning herself with her shirt. “And I always think the best thing to do when I am nervous is sing,” she explained, and began a most elegant tune, “I was born a meat-cutter’s daughter.”
The song was like much of Barry’s work, which tends to have an autobiographical bent. It also had her trademark sense of humor, so often wielded to cut to the center of many a dark and difficult subject with such grace that the reader is left open-mouthed.
But anyway, this hard-nosed reporter desperately wants to get to the heart of things, to the meat of Ms. Funk-Lord’s imparted wisdom. And that was: Writing! Play! Images! Jokes ’n Jokes ’n Jokes!
“Writing is like flying, time traveling, turning invisible…. Kids do these things all the time, but adults aren’t allowed to play. Dancing, singing and drawing are all things adults think are best left to professionals… like Jessica Simpson,” she said.
It was at this point that I realized Barry was not wearing any shoes. She shifted back and forth on her tiny white feet, lamenting the adult condition where fun stops at exercising in green spandex.
“Oh, it’s too late for me, man,” she said, impersonating the jaded coming-of-ager who believes the well of creativity has dried up. “I’m already 18.”
Barry suggested that a person’s first artwork is their favorite stuffed animal or imaginary friend.
“By age six, most kids know their stuffed animals aren’t alive. But if you ask the kid if his bunny is dead, the kid would say (if kids could say this), ‘Fuck no, bunny’s not dead!’”
Instead of writing stories that are “imaginary friends” like those children create, Barry said that “we” — those who make up the misguided realm of adulthood — write stories that “will get the most people to make out with you.”
In saying so, Barry called out you, me and your mother on all the sick, twisted games we are willing to play for a little poon-tang — it was simultaneously embarrassing, endearing and dizzyingly hilarious. The kind of joke we’re all in on, and it feels gooood.
As an aside, I would like to add that this article is this reporter’s first, last and best strategy, so (pleasepleaseplease) bow down before my sexual prowess (pleasepleaseplease — I’m on Facebook!)
Clearly, this lady does not mince words. In her lecture and in her work, she presents social situations with the kind of stark honesty that is surprisingly therapeutic and makes this reporter howl like a hyena.
So, if you are not concentrating on all the booty you’re going to be getting from your various love interests when you are in the midst of the creative process, what on earth should you be thinking about? Images, baby, yeah.
To support her very sexy, I mean, very perceptive point, Barry spoke of a friend who was very excited to find his old journals from high school, but was disappointed to find that they contained nothing but feelings, feelings, feelings.
“He said it was like watching the battle of Waterloo, only it was shot by a monkey,” she said, then pretending to be that monkey, “there’s something about being specific.”
With a most attractive, ahem, example, she had everyone in the room imagine their life through specific objects. First it was a car, then it was other people’s moms.
“We all have it in us,” she said, radiating magical positive feeling, good vibes and her most adorable, trademark hairdo.
As for editing, we do that all the time. Barry likened editing to the “I should have said that” feeling we get when we freeze with embarrassment or when someone pisses us off. Barry followed this up by telling an unfortunate tale involving, her, a hot dog and a “skin regiment.”
Long story short, while standing at the makeup counter waiting for her beauty products, she happened to lean over, causing a huge glob of dill relish from the hot dog she ate for lunch earlier that day to fall out of her pocket onto the table. Pretty embarrassing, right? But here is where the magic of editing comes into play — instead of walking away shame-faced, she looks up like the relish fell from the sky or (my personal favorite) gets in a defensive stance and shouts, “How do you like me now!”
Editing is once again a kind of therapy, using one’s imagination to feel better — a perfect kind of message from a perfect kind of woman.
Toward the end of her lecture, Barry spoke about the dangers of falling under the control of your own self-doubt. She pretended to be that “asshole” voice in her head, personifying it as a big dude leaning over her shoulder in a bar who keeps saying, “It sucks. That’s so stoo-pid.”
“I wouldn’t listen to that kind of person in real life, so why do I listen to him when he’s in my head?” Everyone laughed in recognition.
By the time she started reading from her novel Cruddy, Lynda Will-You-Marry-Me Barry had the room gushing, and one reporter nearly swooning from all the good vibes.
It was better than a good lecture; Barry let us in on all her little secrets on how to really groove on life. She is full of important messages, like “Truth Plus Magical Love Equals Freedom,” and if you didn’t already know this, you gotta tune in. She’ll totally freak you in a far out kind of way, man.
Anna McGlynn says
yo, your blog is totally awesome!
i was searching for my old oberlin review clips and stumbled upon it. always nice to find previous things youve done floating(?) around the virtual world.
i am currently living in osaka, japan.
i havent read manga but ive never been too into the drawing style. there are a couple manga artists i like, but if you have any good recommendations of anything, i would love to hear!
anyway, i like drawing/reading/anything to do with comics. i will definitely keep up with your site!