Lynda Barry joins Family Circus
June 1, 2017 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Cheeses priced! I'm a grown-assed man crying on the frackin' bus now.
Thanks for this, it made my day.
posted by Floydd at 5:00 AM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I saw a mention of this on Twitter yesterday and it really got to me. I will never make fun of Family Circus again.
posted by tommasz at 5:10 AM on June 1, 2017 [15 favorites]

Yeah, real tears.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lynda at the Miami International Book Fair several years ago, and was delighted to find that she's even more open and charming in person than I would have guessed.
posted by mkhall at 5:11 AM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love Lynda and now I want to hug her.
posted by bunderful at 5:35 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I met Lynda at a signing once, and she asked me if I drew comics; I told her no, but that comics literally saved my life. She just smiled and nodded. I didn’t have to explain any further; she knew exactly what I was talking about.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:47 AM on June 1, 2017 [10 favorites]

I also saw this on the Twitters and, gosh, it makes me love Lynda even more. How cool to get to be Jeffy's friend!!!
posted by jillithd at 5:57 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Back in the brief day when indie comics broke thru, before the internet and before Diamond controlled the distribution chain, but after my books were banned in texas, Lynda was one of the artists who came out to help fundraise for our legal fight against censorship. I cannot even say how fucking happy I am for her right now. This is amazing.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

I cannot tell you how gladdened I am that, even as fucked up as this world seems most days, Lynda Freaking Barry is part of the Family Circus canon.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house but we did have the daily paper and I remember picking out Family Circus before I could really read.
There was something about the life on the other side of that circle that looked pretty good. For kids like me there was a map and a compass hidden in Family Circus. The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. Their home was stable. It put that image in my head and I kept it.

It's funny, we mock folks who like light fluffy stuff as un-serious or shallow. But often the reason like light fluffy stuff because they've seen some really dark shit in their lives and have no interest in seeing more of it for fun.

After almost losing a little person I have no interest (or frankly ability) to expose myself to any kind of media with little people coming to harm. Fuck that. If there's babies or little kids give me a happy story.

Having an interest in 'dark' or 'serious' media is sometimes the result of a profoundly privileged life, one free from significant sorrow, suffering, or hardship that leaves you capable of emotionally engaging with those works. There's a reason most of the emo kids come from stable suburbia.

TLDR: The bubbly girl with the fluffy pink bunny might have it because she needs that fluffy fucker.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:30 AM on June 1, 2017 [54 favorites]

Lynda is a living treasure. One of her strips from 20 years ago pops into my mind weekly: "You can't wear clothes that suck when rock is your life!"
posted by Cranialtorque at 6:50 AM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lynda's own work, often, is incredibly dark. (Ever read Cruddy?) And she's described how therapeutic it can be to see the pain inside yourself, outside yourself in art. So it's not like she's against that.

I'm not taking away from this generalizations about what kind of work is good and bad, so much as the warning that you don't know why somebody else appreciates what they appreciate and things might be very important to somebody else for reasons that you are not aware of. So be circumspect and have some respect for what other people care about.

Also Josh Fruhlinger better keep clear of Lynda when she's drunk.
posted by edheil at 6:52 AM on June 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

Who's going to complain about Family Circus after reading that little essay?

posted by gusottertrout at 6:54 AM on June 1, 2017 [24 favorites]

I read about this yesterday, and it pretty much confirmed that Lynda Barry is, in, fact, Funk Queen of the Universe.

The account that I read, though, for some reason ended with a remark from Robert Crumb. Getting called "pathetic" by Robert Crumb has to be some kind of honor, right? Like, it's maybe a little difficult to parse though the millions of layers of fractal irony surrounding it, but if you've managed to find a way to get that guy speak dismissively about you based purely on your positive feelings about something, you're obviously living right.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:11 AM on June 1, 2017 [15 favorites]

@LeoTrotsky - I'm sorry to hear you almost lost a little one, but just wanted to add that I COMPLETELY feel you on that one, and that you aren't alone in how that experience changes your view of the world, and the media. My youngest has a very rare and nasty vascular condition in his brain, that he's been battling since 2 months old (He's 3 yo now, and is still undergoing treatment for it). Ever since we started going through this, I've definitely noticed my wife and I just have different reactions to a lot of media, and definitely just aren't as into (or are at least a lot more viscerally reactive to) stuff where kids are hurt / in danger.

Just to share a story -- My wife and I are big Sci-Fi fans, so when it was my turn to pick a movie recently, I suggested we rent Arrival since I was a fan of Ted Chiang's short stories, but somehow hadn't read the one that was based off of. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that I think she's not going to let me pick another movie for quite a while! :-P
posted by Greasy Eyed Gristle Man at 7:13 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lynda's own work, often, is incredibly dark. (Ever read Cruddy?)

Oh, yes. Recommended, but it doesn't leave one in a good place by the end.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

This Lynda Barry essay is one of my all-time favorites. I was telling my co-worker Jess, who is like me a college reference librarian, about Lynda Barry just a couple of days ago. Jess is in her twenties and had never heard of her and was delighted to learn about her. I'm sure that one of these days some student is going to come by and Jess or I will turn her or him onto Lynda Barry. That student, like so many others who have had the luck to stumble across Lynda Barry, will feel less alone.
posted by mareli at 7:30 AM on June 1, 2017 [18 favorites]

Mareli, that is an incredible essay, thanks for sharing that.
posted by storybored at 7:38 AM on June 1, 2017

So, I toured the US Supreme Court the other day. They have a big section dedicated to Sandra Day O'Connor, and one of the things on display in there is a piece of original Family Circus art by Bil Keane dedicated to O'Connor. If I'd made a list of 1000 things I expected to see in the Supreme Court, original Family Circus art would not have been on that list. But it was pretty cool to see, and made me think well of Keane.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:57 AM on June 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I think I could have still managed to hold on to some snark in my heart for Family Circus if Jeff Keane's portrait of Barry wasn't both so affectionate and so recognizable. (And he totally didn't have to use the word 'best'.) Lynda Barry is a national treasure.
posted by straight at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by maryr at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anything that makes Lynda Barry happy makes me happy.

I was lucky to discover her work when I was more or less the age of the characters. I knew I wasn't actually supposed to be reading it, but I wasn't sure why. All her stories were about kids and she knew exactly how it was. She knew exactly.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:25 AM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Since she has written autobiographical comics, let the Family Circus-LyndaBarryVerse crossover events begin!
posted by otherchaz at 8:29 AM on June 1, 2017

So is this going to connect like every comic ever made into the Tommy Westphall universe at some point?
posted by Naberius at 8:35 AM on June 1, 2017

I found three of Lynda's books at a used-book store in Dallas many years ago and it felt like someone had left them there just for me. Been her fan ever since.
posted by emjaybee at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

It must be added that last weekend, Lynda was presented with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Reuben Awards (which may have prompted the timing of Jeffy Keane's salute to her).
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:10 AM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

It's funny, we mock folks who like light fluffy stuff as un-serious or shallow. But often the reason like light fluffy stuff because they've seen some really dark shit in their lives and have no interest in seeing more of it for fun.

You know who hates escapism? Jailers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:52 AM on June 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

Like a flash this brought me back to when I read "The Good Times Are Killing Me" back whenever that was, 198......?? This part has stuck with me ever since. It was a relief to read it, she had read my mind when I was 12-13, somebody understood completely.

Anyway buy the book, read the book, petition for Sainthood the miracle of Linda Barry.
posted by Pembquist at 10:47 AM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I tried to link but it didn't work so the above might not make sense. Anyway this is the excerpt I was referring to (copy paste):
posted by Pembquist at 11:22 AM on June 1, 2017

Lynda Barry is da truth!
posted by Bob Regular at 12:12 PM on June 1, 2017

Gah, I read Cruddy and it was SO FOREIGN to me that there would be kids in a family that doesn't love them? Or care about them even a little bit? I think I was 30 when I read that and it blew my mind. And I *know* I am so privileged to be able to say that. That is how fantastic of a writer she is. Because you read about that stuff all the time in the news, but Cruddy was tales from the inside and the day-to-day of living like that, and I just hadn't ever experienced or thought about a child's growing up like that before with the nitty gritty details. And to know that for some folks, reading Cruddy was like finding someone else who understood their life, and have that book be able to speak to them AND to people with different experiences growing up... It really made me re-think about some of the friends and acquaintances I had at that early teen age that probably *did* live like that and I was so fucking clueless.

I really love Lynda Barry but then I get scared to read more of her stuff, because it hurts me to think of this person I love - who I don't even know and don't even, like, LOVE love - had to go through so much pain. I'm the mother of a young child and the mama-me just wants to give her one big hug.
posted by jillithd at 12:33 PM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not all her stuff is as dark as Cruddy, but there is some darkness in all her stuff. She had a pretty shitty childhood.
posted by emjaybee at 2:56 PM on June 1, 2017

The account that I read, though, for some reason ended with a remark from Robert Crumb. Getting called "pathetic" by Robert Crumb has to be some kind of honor, right?

Source, please? It kind of wouldn't surprise me if Crumb said something mean about Barry, because he can be really cranky and contrary sometimes, but it also wouldn't surprise me if he was one of her biggest fans. He's certainly championed plenty of edgy female cartoonists, including his wife Aline Komisnky-Crumb. Barry has certainly raved plenty about Crumb:

(Crumb) was the first time I realized that you could write about anything. It seems like such an easy idea that you could write about anything, but when you’re a seventh grader, the idea that you could write about, anything, even bad things, about what was happening in real life—I saw stuff in Zap that, even though it wasn’t my life that was represented, it seemed closer to real life than any novel I had read, and anything I’d ever seen in comic strips or in any movie. It seemed just like how people were, and that was so thrilling to me. It really influenced me. I copied Crumb’s drawing.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:43 PM on June 1, 2017

Ursula Hitler, it was quoted on twitter by Kim O'Connor here.

My read of it was that it was both a joke *and* a real judgment on his part. "Cranky and contrary sometimes" strikes me as the gentle way that one describes an asshole who's also talented, so long as it's an older white guy. Being "cranky and contrary" as a reaction to having heard someone relate a genuine, self-deprecating story about their fondness for something kind of silly is, at a bare minimum, some passive-aggressive nonsense.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can see the footage here, with the relevant bit starting around 41:30. My read of it is that he's actually with her—you can see him nodding along throughout the story—but he's providing a punchline.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:37 AM on June 2, 2017

... the mama-me just wants to give her one big hug.

I feel the same way. After reading One! Hundred! Demons! I really wanted to find out if her mother was still alive, if they had any kind of a relationship, but from what I've read Barry wants to keep that private. That's for the best, and anyway, it probably hasn't ended well. Her mother was a very troubled woman who'd been through hell and didn't have much inside her to give.

In conclusion, fuck Robert Crumb. (I am, I admit, irrationally angry with him, because his were the first depictions of the human sex act that I ever saw. That wasn't supposed to have happened on a lot of levels, but it fucked me up nonetheless.)
posted by Countess Elena at 9:39 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I guess I can add Crumb to the list of topics I should avoid on Metafilter. That list grows by the day.

(I tried to watch the video, but I can't fast-forward without the visuals freezing and the audio doubling and tripling itself. It's probably an interesting panel, but it's too much work to watch the darn thing. From the printed excerpt I get the impression Crumb was at worst being kind of insensitive. If they're friendly, it may have been affectionate razzing. I don't know. Thank you and goodnight.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2017

Well, it would be ridiculous for me to postulate my opinions as being somehow representative of the entire metafilter user base, so I wouldn't necessarily encourage expanding any topic-avoidance lists that you may be maintaining on account of this thread.

I haven't seen the video myself, just the transcript featured in the tweet. But, Crumb strikes me as someone who's had a lot of obnoxious behavior explained away by virtue of being a Troubled Genius, and seeing his remark as the button on a story of a woman expressing something that was meaningful to her didn't do much to elevate my opinion of the guy.

And in order to avoid turning this thread about Lynda Barry into a thread about Crumb, I'll try to merge back into the mainline topic: reading Barry's reasons for loving "Family Circus" was kind of an eye-opener, because the gentleness that was drew her is the same reason I've always had for dismissing it. It is such a quiet, smooth, monotonous, inoffensive, repetitious comic....the comic strip equivalent of Musak. And Barry's work is so vivid by comparison, so ragged and emotionally treacherous and honest, that I was amazed to have learned she's a fan, until she explained why and it suddenly made perfect sense.
posted by Ipsifendus at 2:18 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I remember being in, like, 4th grade and playing My Little Ponies with the girl whose dad lived across the street. Her parents were divorced (and her dad, a couple years later, ended up getting arrested for illegally transporting drugs across the nearby international border) and mine were not. My ponies were always being naughty and rambunctious and full of pony drama. Hers were the most well-behaved and happy pony family.
posted by jillithd at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a fan of Lynda, but in no way can I match the fandom of Ms Wimp. She has collected everything she can get her hands on and even has old VHS recordings of the show she and Kevin Kling did for Minnesota Public Television back in the day (they were an item). She'll even spontaneously break into her theme song. We went to hear her speak at Central Presbyterian Church and she was fantastic. Best anecdote was that she misheard the lyrics for the Rascals' "Groovin'" as "That would be ecstasy/You and me and Lesley." She said as a teenager it gave her a tingly feeling to think about a threesome, and she was bitterly disappointed when she learned those weren't the actual words.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:39 PM on June 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mental Wimp, can you be a little more specific about which of the TV shows in that link feature Barry? Searching the site isn't proving fruitful for me. Was this a show she co-hosted, or were these just interviews?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:15 PM on June 4, 2017

My bad, Ursula Hitler. I thought I had linked to the show directly. It's "Grandma's Way Out Party."
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:04 PM on June 4, 2017

Cool beans! Looking forward to watching these.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:19 PM on June 4, 2017

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