In the spring of 2006, the writer Dan Chaon invited my wife and I to Oberlin to see a cartoonist named Lynda Barry speak. She took off her boots in the middle of a chemistry lab and read from a book named Cruddy:
Afterwards, my wife and I spent a few hours at a bar with her and Dan and a few other students afterwards, and I feel very much like I’ve run my whole career off that encounter. The way Lynda thinks about images and pictures and words just snapped everything together for me, showed me a path forward I didn’t know existed. She was the first artist who taught me the value of thinking and exploring on the page with your hands.
I read everything of hers I could find and What It Is was a book I anticipated like no other.
I bought the Tin House issue with an excerpt later that fall. (A side note: That amazing issue also intro’d me to Graham Rawle and Mary Ruefle.)
In 2007, I got in line early at the comic shop to snag a copy of the activity book excerpt Drawn and Quarterly put out for Free Comic Book day.
When What It Is came out in 2008, it was overwhelming — every page a handmade collage, blowing my mind.
Later, Lynda would find an even more perfect merging of form and content in the books modeled on her composition books, Syllabus and Making Comics, but What It Is holds a special place in my heart. The book changed me forever and Lynda is my hero.
Every Saturday I put one of my favorite books on the Bookshelf. To see more favorite books, check out my reading years.