Books

One Hundred Demons

Book Review

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Lynda Barry
Powell's City of Books
Thur Sept 12, 7:30 pm

Lynda Barry, longtime comic artist and author of the great Cruddy, will be reading from her new book, One Hundred Demons. And she is amazing.

I thought your distinction between "the kind of hate that has destructive intent and the kind that's a response to something destructive" was very accurate. But it still left me wondering... how do we deal with the kind of hate that's a response? Even if it's a natural response, it's still hate, right? Thoughts?

About hate? I think hate is one of the many natural by-products of living. Like love and confusion and boredom and anxiety. But for some reason I get the impression that I'm supposed to act like feeling hatred is a shortcoming. Kids feel hate all the time and so do adults. I do. I certainly do. I feel tiny amounts of hate, medium-sized chunks of hate, huge honking wads of hate! I don't think it's such a bad thing. Sometimes it's like an immune system. I don't want my body to "forgive" botulism. I don't want it to be "understanding" toward salmonella or "work things out" with e.coli. I like it when hate helps me stay away from people who are the equivalent of these things. Hate has played an important place in maintaining my mental health. It's not a popular way of looking at things, I know, but it beats trying to cure vampires with my magical hippie love.

How do you feel about the world of mainstream literature embracing comics more recently?

Well it's great if it's true. I'm not sure how true it is. Or maybe I wouldn't call it an embrace. I'd call it allowing cartoonists to live on the same street. But at the same time there is more of an acceptance in the literary world, cartooning is vanishing from the regular world. The comic strips in the newspapers are smaller, comic books play a much smaller role than they used to, alternative newspapers are not so alternative anymore, a lot of them have been bought up by bigger papers who kick all the cartoonists right out first thing.

I love the part in the back where you give directions on how to make your own comics. How does that fit into the function of the book overall?

I HATE (HATE!!!!) how people are made to feel that only artists get to draw and only singers get to sing, that only professionals are the ones who have the right to keep doing these things. I'll take bad singing over no singing in a minute. And I have a warm (LOVE! LOVE!) place in my heart for "bad drawings" and also "bad writing". I just think DOING something for no planned reason is a good thing for the whole of ourselves. We know that if a kid was never allowed to play at all, that kid would be damaged. So why is it that adults don't need to play?? Creative concentration is how adults play. But most people feel they just don't have the right to do it because they aren't any good at it when being good at it isn't even the point. It's the doing.

Do you think of yourself as a cynic?

That's a funny question! It makes me start laughing. I don't know why. Maybe it's because it's my cynicism makes me feel uncynical. I am cynical about curing vampires with my magical hippie love, cynical about people in power being wonderful to the people who they control, cynical that the natural world will ever be valuable to people who make money by destroying it--the list can go on and on especially if I'm feeling irritable or bored--and because of this cynicism I just think "the hell with it all" and I feel free to just practice my brushwork because, obviously, it's hopeless!

But why I laugh is that it's the feeling of hopelessness that instantly gives me a feeling of hope. The cynicism that lets me give up, allows me to do the useless sorts of things that give me a feeling of faith. So maybe that's why your question makes me laugh. Yes! I am a cynic! And when I totally give in to it, and see there is no way out of this rotten situation we're in, hate it with all my heart and give up on trying to change it, then I do something that is free of the intention of fixing anything or delivering a message, I just make a picture of a frog sitting on a leaf wearing a crown. I do it for no reason other than it feels nice to move the brush in this shape and the frog appears on the paper and then the leaf and the crown and I feel this kind of joy that I had completely forgotten about, a feeling of aliveness that hopefulness and an answer to that question, "What is the point of living?" It seems so suddenly clear! The point of living is .......living!

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