Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's so magic

Maybe if I wait long enough everything will come right here to Mile End.

My sister gave me a book called Big Ideas for my16th birthday and I have loved Lynda Barry ever since.

Lovers of Lynda Barry are ardent, loyal and extreme. They're given to walking away in disgust from people who say: "Those aren't even comics"; "Terrible drawing"; "Too hard to read, too much writing!"; or: "They're not even funny."

Lynda Barry can tell a perfect short story in four panels. It sends you spinning back to an exquisite, forgotten moment of growing up, and is gut-punchingly sad, funny and true in the same instant.

A few years ago, her work became hard to find. The comics were in fewer and fewer papers and her books stopped appearing. Where did she go?

Every once in a while I would Google: Lynda Barry + new book.

Then, one day, the answer came back from the ouija board of the internet:  Lynda Barry was back! In fact, she was practically moving into the neighbourhood. Mile End's own Drawn and Quarterly was her new publisher. I really felt like I was in on the action.

Last weekend, when Lynda Barry appeared in Montreal in person, there was a huge burst of adoring applause before she could even say a word.

She told jokes and stories, insisting it is our biological function to do so. It makes life worth living, she said. She talked about the power of images, busted dancercise moves and gave a slideshow. To quote her irrepressible character Marlys, she showed the audience "How to be an incredible #1 groover on life."

Mid-way through her talk Lynda Barry said, "In 2002 my publisher dropped me. It was over for me until Drawn and Quarterly came calling."

I looked around the packed auditorium of the Ukrainian Federation on Hutchison at Fairmount. Every (anglo) filmmaker, writer, artist and musician in the neighbourhood was there. It was a huge Mile End reunion and Lynda Barry was at the centre of it.

I hadn't known I lived next to hundreds of fans, people who would line up for three hours after the show to get their books signed. But it makes perfect sense. In a place where every other person has an art project or a film proposal in the works, a novel on the go or a demo in progress, Lynda Barry is the patron saint. And Drawn and Quarterly is the discerning, community-minded patron of the arts.


What it Is & Picture This by Lynda Barry
available from Drawn and Quarterly
211 Bernard St. West, Montreal
forthcoming, September 2011: the first in the new series EVERYTHING, previously published works and more, by Lynda Barry


Anonymous said...

What kind of a world is it where someone like Lynda Barry gets dropped by her publisher?

Anonymous said...

Hope to catch her next time she reads. Teaching got in the way of seeing her this time!

Maeve said...

How did I not know she was in Montreal?! I'm such a big fan, too. I hope to catch her next time, too!

idleprimate said...

I love what Lynda Barry stands for, and her philosophy, yet I have trouble reading her work and the annual Best American Comics that she edited is the only one i found boring. I don't get her, she is an engima

I am glad D&Q picked her up.

Sarah Gilbert said...

Idleprimate, try One Hundred Demons! Available at D&Q. Great stories, very accessible, a good point of entry to the Lynda Barry oeuvre.

Shoshana said...

I saw Lynda Barry last year when she came and spoke in Montreal. What an incredible lecture. I was not too familiar with her, but hearing her speak was one of the best lectures I have ever heard. She is so funky and wild, with so much insight into humanity. She should be known by everyone.