Page 45 Review by Dominique
"Who's Trish? She's one of your grown-up friends, I guess."
"On come on... I have to act normal with her... she's just a friend... Christ, I'm glad she didn't see you!"
"What d'ya think? She'd wonder what the hell I'm doing with a teenager."
"You hate me! You're just embarrassed by me!!"
"You're just a kid, and you don't understand. We gotta lay low! I got some Asti Spumante for special occasions. Oh... and the burritos!"
I've read bad 'slice-of-life' stories that seem forced, projecting the artist's best or worst side depending on the image they want to create. This book, a mixture of prose diary entries, accompanying illustrations and multiple page comic sections, isn't that way - from what I can tell, in as much as one person can judge the truthfulness of another's art, this book is unbelievably honest, and as such it really gets inside your head. To what degree it is actually autobiographical is apparently not important to Gloeckner, nor should it be to the reader, as she makes clear in her foreword. Undoubtedly though, one of the things that makes it so effective and affecting is the art. There's no doubt that Gloeckner is an extremely technically proficient illustrator.
This skill, particularly in the comic sections, makes them rather menacing and horrifically life-like. I'm in awe of artists who can draw pictures which actually tell you what is going on in the subject's mind - Gloeckner does this on every page, explaining and revealing, drawing you into these situations, these nightmare places, face to face with these terrible fucking people.
But each event in turn seems to add up to an understanding, or at least some sort of progress. It reminds me a little of Penny Arcade's stuff, (the spoken word/performance artist, not the webcomic) except that Gloeckner seems to have come out the other side intact and able to get on and tell her, and Minnie's stories. Part of me finds it insane that anyone would be this honest and this public, but mostly I'm just in awe of the strength, the force of will and the emotional maturity it must have taken to live this life and make an quasi-autobiographical comic book out of it.
Sadly, but perhaps naturally, the reaction to a book like this - and to the current film - is often outrage or scorn. Rather than deal with the reality, we'd like to imagine the whole thing was artistic license, the ravings of a loony, a publicity stunt to sell more whatever. Or perhaps we're hostile - we ask, why waste your talent drawing such nasty stuff? Gross, thanks a lot, what makes you think we needed to see that? (Or as a friend said to me of the book Prozac Nation; "So she has depression. What makes her think her life is worthy of a book?")
Despite what I've said above, please don't imagine that this is a self-pitying work, full of whiney angst. Somehow, incredibly, Gloeckner has peppered this story with wry humour, laughing affectionately at the naivety of her young protagonists. It's a testament to her own skills that she manages to mix humour and subtlety into such a bold and shocking story. I definitely recommend this book. You may want to read it in small bits, you may only want to read it once and then put it away, but once you have read it, it will certainly stay with you for a long while.