Review: Cruddy

When I've found a paper that publishes them, I've followed Lynda Barry's comics over the years. The subjects have always been those disturbed barely adolescent girls that I thought I knew of when I was at that age, but probably didn't really.

I really enjoyed her recordings made for the Gang of Seven label, which captured the trials and joys of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks.

The buzz for her new book Cruddy has been around recently, and I was looking for some escapist fiction, so I picked it up.

Cruddy is a tragedy, an exposition of a character's decisions which lead to an inescapable conclusion. Roberta, the heroine, is a girl more grown up than the adults around her, and she narrates two stories, one of the drug trip which has her grounded, confined to her room, the other of murder, theft and arson, five years earlier.

In the first chapter Roberta asks "...when the thing that is scaring you is already Jesus, who are you supposed to pray to?" The rest of the book is an exploration of those themes, of power gone awry, and the compromises necessary to stay alive removing any reason to.

While I found the book profoundly disturbing and effective, I don't feel richer for having met Roberta. An extraordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, her tale frightens but stays so surreal that I don't find insights that I want to take with me.

As the narrative switches from hallucination to grisly bloodbath to mundane teenage interactions I don't find enough of reality to link to my own world. And in the end I put the book down and try to shake off the experience of having read it, rather than trying to assimilate that experience into myself.

Monday, April 17th, 2000