What It Is
by Lynda Barry
Graphic Novel, 208 pages
First, let’s start with what Lynda Barry’s graphic novel is not: drab, ordinary, boring. As an intellectual rhapsody of the power of image, form, and function within writing, What It Is is unlike any book I’ve ever experienced: undeniably an oddity– although wonderfully so. Barry’s stylized use of color, text, imagery, and wording is gorgeous, and the thoughts/questions that she poses are intuitively reflective. Her “essay” questions (which bear the post script “we do not know the answers”) cover topics such as the nature of imagery, the effect of words, and the concept of a story in relation to one’s own past, present, and future.
Reading this graphic novel, and indeed pondering some of the questions it asks, brings to light my (lately dormant) creative side, and also the desire in me to do something about it. It isn’t so much the subject matter itself, but more the abstract and free-formed way in which Barry presents her thoughts that makes this book so compelling; I’m in awe of her style. She professes the idea that writing doesn’t always need structure: writing, art, creativity can be as unrestrained as we want it to be.