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Lynda Barry gets critical study from University Press of Mississippi

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Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass is a new scholarly look at the esteemed cartoonist’s work, especially as it related to girlhood. Written by Susan E. Kirtley, the book is available now.

With Barry’s work in a variety of mediums—comics, novels, and stage—widely acclaimed, a dedicated look at her work is long overdue. It’s part of UPM’s Great Comics Artists Series.

The art of Lynda Barry (b. 1956) incorporates several mediums including plays, paintings, radio commentary, and lectures. By using a combination of simple, raw drawings and mature, eloquent text, Barry’s oeuvre blurs the boundaries between fiction and memoir, comics and literary fiction, and fantasy and reality.

Barry is best known for her long-running comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, illustrated fiction (Cruddy, The Good Times Are Killing Me), and graphic novels (One! Hundred! Demons!) and her recent volumes What It Is (2008) and Picture This (2010) fuse autobiography, teaching guide, sketchbook, and cartooning into coherent visions.

Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass (University Press of Mississippi) is the first scholarly book to focus exclusively on Barry. Author Susan E. Kirtley examines the artist’s career and contributions to the field of comic art and beyond. The study specifically concentrates on Barry’s recurring focus on figures of young girls, in a variety of mediums and genres.

This study makes the case that Barry’s oeuvre offers a multifaceted perspective on girlhood, a perception that examines girls and girlhood through various means of expression. Barry follows the image of the girl through many lenses and many genres—from text-based novels to the hybrid blending of text and image in comic art, to art shows and slideshows. In tracing Barry’s aesthetic and intellectual development, Kirtley reveals Barry’s work to be groundbreaking in its understanding of femininity and feminism.

Girlhood through the Looking Glass also features over 50 of Barry’s illustrations.

  1. My wife and I were fortunate to attend one of Ms. Barry’s informative and entertaining lectures at a local college. She was most gracious while facing the very long line of admiring fans waiting to meet her afterwards. Lately I’ve been thinking that the Marlys strips would be great as animated shorts.

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