Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wiscosin (for Wisconsin)

Cartoonist Lynda Barry was born on January 2, 1956, in Richland Center, Wisconsin, and later moved to the state of Washington. I first discovered her in the syndicated cartoon "Ernie Pook's Comeek" back in the 1980s. It appeared in my local alternative newsweekly, right above Matt Groening's "Life in Hell." (Barry met Groening at Evergreen State College in Olympia, where he filched a fledgling "Ernie Pook" and published it in the school newspaper.) I read Barry's comic strip religiously for years, but I don't think I ever realized (or at any rate had forgotten) that that was what it was actually called. I just called it "Lynda Barry" as in: "Did you read Lynda Barry today?" Some of my coworkers would tell me they couldn't be bothered because it had "too many words" or "too much writing" in it. Which I always found sort of odd coming from those who prided themselves on preferring reading to watching TV. However, I think it was more a matter of expectation than erudition. "Ernie Pook" was simply unlike any other cartoon there was, and if you couldn't think (like Barry often wrote) outside the box, well, there you were. Neverthless, Barry had garnered a lot of attention by that time and was quickly becoming famous. She disliked the limelight, though, and has been quietly working behind the scenes, writing books and teaching writing, for the past couple of decades. The New York Times praised her 2000 book Cruddy as "a work of terrible beauty"; her other graphic novels and collected works have also gotten good reviews. Today's typo was found four times in OhioLINK, and 98 times in WorldCat. My original intention was to blog on Linda + Lynda for misspelled version of those two names. (Barry herself had changed the spelling of her own name from "Linda" to "Lynda" when she was twelve years old, the same year her parents got divorced.) This combo brought up too many false positives to really be useful in such a wide search, but you might want to try it in your own library catalogs.

(Lynda Barry at the Alternative Press Expo 2010, organized at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco, California, by Comic-Con International, Oct. 16-17, 2010, signing a copy of her latest book, Picture This. Photo by Guillaume Paumier, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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