Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RIP, Ernie Pook; Vivat Lynda!

I was fascinated to find a recent article from the Chicago Tribune on one of my 80s crushes, cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry. Back in the days of campus life and alternative weeklies, the best reason to rush out and find the Philadelphia CityPaper was "Ernie Pook's Comeek", her marvelous, wordy, frequently heartbreaking take on the life and times of a pair of drifting young sisters and their weird friends.

I honestly don't think she's crossed my mind since the fall of 2001. Then, her incredible meditation on 9/11, a series of pictures "narrated" by Emily Dickinson's poem 341 ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes") was one of the works that most affected me that dreadful fall.

It turns out she's had a difficult few years, marked by declining income due to the disappearance of papers like CityPaper and a bout of what sounds very much like depression.

It was good to hear, though, that while Groening-style mega-success may have eluded her, and while she recently retired "Ernie Pook", she continues to make wonderful art, selling some of it directly on e-Bay. Both of the examples seen here could now be yours - unless I outbid you.

Princess Blue Doggie reminds me very much of Thurber, and the sleeping dog has a wonderful, almost Japanese economy of line. Miss Barry's work goes far beyond spotty teens and cat's eye glasses, and it's amazing to think that genuine work by such an American original is just a few clicks away.


  1. Aah... one of Miss J's faves...

  2. Who can forget "Poodle with a Mowhawk"?

    I met Lynda in Chicago at a signing for her book "Boys & Girls", in 1981. She drew me a picture!

  3. I have one of her books around here somewhere. She seemed sort of tuned into what and how I was thinking back in the day, when I was thinking at all. Sometimes when I run across people who made it out of the 80s in one piece, I think I'm as glad as if I had actually known them.

  4. Her illustrated novel CRUDDY (Simon & Schuster, 1999) is especially brilliant, and I always recommend it to friends, admittedly sometimes with mixed results. Brutal yet funny. It reads like the story of my life.

  5. I always appreciated her work and LOVE her kooky personal style. But Roz Chast was the female cartoonist I really connected with.

  6. Good podcast interview with Lynda Barry here on CBC Radio.

    I just bought her latest book, What It Is.

    I’ve met her too and she’s fab.

    And so is your blog!

    (found you via Fabulon)