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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Life is Good: New Lynda Barry book from D&Q!


Full disclosure on a personal bias: I'm a massive Lynda Barry fan. Such a Lynda Barry fan am I that I was always put on Lynda Barry event duty at the Vancouver Writer's Fest. Without even being asked. Because everybody knew. About my Lynda Barry Love.


So I went into reading Syllabus, the newest release from Drawn & Quarterly, both super pumped to read it and feeling like I knew what to expect. Syllabus ended up delivering so much more than I ever could have anticipated or hoped for; as with Lynda's whole gerd'damn life, it's an inspiration and an absolute joy, and I probably won't shut up about it for a while, so maybe watch out.


For those of you who are unaware of Barry's stylings, she teaches "a method of writing that focuses on the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual." (D&Q) Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor uses the Dear Professor Old Skull's course plans from several of her classes at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and expands upon them with her teaching insights, collages, and assignments. Those familiar with Lynda Barry will recognize her dynamically dense and colourful style, yellow lined paper, and the presence of the legendary Near Sighted Monkey


This excerpt, from Professor Lynda's Making Comics class description, perfectly encapsulates what makes her classes and workshops the type of experience people take three train rides for. Reclaiming the self-confidence of unbridled drawing is a practice very few people engage in, and yet it is so unbelievably empowering.


Sections of Syllabus that take the focus off the class and onto Lynda Barry's experiences and insights on teaching are honest and deeply entrancing: the glorious Dog & Beaver drawing used in On Liking and Not Liking Our Drawings and later called back to in her examination of people who have quit drawing as children and started up again in her class is particularly delightful.


It's the same sense of charm that has made us unable to throw out the Moley the Mole drawing from our first Kids Drawing Day event: there's something innately alive about this type of drawing, unrestricted and enigmatic beyond belief. Lynda Barry's quest is genuine and hard not to get behind. How can her brand of enthusiasm not latch itself onto you?!


Also worth mentioning: the production on Syllabus is understated and perfect. Its single signature binding and comp book aesthetic is such an exact fit with the content that I was surprised to find myself feeling like a student again, energized and ready to pack it and go to class.


Extra credit: throughout Syllabus, Professor Lynda calls out and uses Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning. If you're in for a double hit of inspirational insights into teaching and cartooning, we also highly recommend this lovely little book.


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