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Bottomless Belly Button [Paperback]

Dash Shaw
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shaw's stunningly conceived and executed comic opus captures one moment of change in a family. Maggie and David Loony have called their three adult children to their childhood home to announce that, after 40 years of marriage, they're getting a divorce. Dennis, the eldest, desperately searches for an answer to why. He believes that if he just finds the right old letters, he'll understand what's happening to his parents, only to find that his answers say a lot more about his own marriage and infant son. Claire, the middle child, has been through her own divorce and is now struggling to raise a teen daughter by herself. The youngest, Peter, who has always felt like a changeling in his family and is drawn with a frog's head, is going through a delayed coming-of-age. Shaw's style deftly combines cartoon drawings with slavish attention to detail. The result feels reminiscent of a photo album, one person's quest to remember everything from the floor plans of the vacation home to the texture of the sand on the lake beach. Masterfully using the comics medium to juggle all the different characters, weaving their stories together seamlessly, Shaw allows the Loonys' emotions to play out naturally without forced resolutions, leaving a wistful hopefulness that feels just as conflicted and confusing as every family is. (June)
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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrushed family drama. Would make a great movie! Jan. 18 2014
By Ryuk
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With this 700+ graphic novel, Dash Shaw has made a name for himself in the comic world as well shown he has his own recognizable art style. I have to admit I was a little turned off at first by his artwork to some degree but the storyline and delivery has definite potential which pushed me through the first part.

The story is about a family gathering at the grandparent's house along the beach. While having the kids there (Dennis, Claire and Peter) along with the grandkids they announce that after decades of marriage they are getting a divorce. The book sprouts into mostly three ways following each of the kids lives and how they take the news. While partially flashbacks and current family chatter you see how everyone has their own way of dealing and caring.

For being such a long book and was surprisingly not that long of a read. Dash's strength is in his writing and although he did a great job with this book I couldn't help but feel that he could be doing better making films. This would make a great indie film.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graphic Life July 5 2008
By Robert T Canipe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Shaw's marvelous graphic novel extols the emotional distance between family members and the individuals from themselves. Members of the aptly- and humanity inclusively-named Looney family gather to receive word that their parents are divorcing after 40+ years of marriage. What unfolds is a tripartite discovery process of themselves, their relationships both inside and out of the family, and their place in life's plan. Had Shaw's novel been completely text, it's place in the literature section of the bookstore alongside John Banville, Lionel Shriver, and Jennifer McMahon would be assured. However, since it is a graphic novel and comprised of predominately illustrations over text, it's in no bookstore that I've been able to discover. However, Shaw's work is assuredly adult and literary and resonates with themes illustrative of the human condition. Pick it up.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book which must be met on its own terms Oct. 13 2009
By Max Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As much as I loved this book, it's unsurprising to me that it has produced highly divisive reviews. The book covers a subject that's been exhausted to death (middle class white family drama), and there is absolutely no sense of resolution to any of the various plot threads running through the book. I have to say, though, if you're looking for 'resolution' and 'coherence' when reading this book, then you are Doing It Wrong. A work must be met on its own terms, and in Bottomless Belly Button Dash Shaw has created a brilliant encapsulation the swirl of impossible-to-pin-down emotions that encompass modern family life. However, what really puts this book over the top for me is not its narrative content, but the formal ambition of Shaw's cartooning. He manages to fully express the character of each of the members of the Loony family without any of the cheap comic techniques usually relied upon by cartoonists (captions, text-heavy expository dialogue, thought bubbles, etc.), but rather by taking the time and care to show the emotional nuances of their interactions with the everyday world around them. What's most admirable about Shaw's work, though, is the precision with which he controls panel layout, a factor that many cartoonists completely ignore. Years can pass between two panels on some pages, whereas in other parts of the book three or more pages are devoted to less than 10 seconds of action. This may seem obnoxious or self-indulgent to those who are used to standard, run-of-the-mill comics, but what it shows is that Shaw is acutely aware of what makes each seemingly inane moment of life so crucial while you are living it. Here, Shaw has bravely captured those qualities in a work that shows that he is a cartoonist to watch.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished; Buy it! July 3 2009
By Buzz Advert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Shaw's book is truly top notch. The family drama was not initially engrossing for me, but it eventually drew me in with its well-drawn characters and interesting relationship dynamics. The characters' lack of communication, understanding, articulateness, and contentedness are painful yet often amusing. A reviewer complained that the characters lack depth, and perhaps there's some truth to this. However, one might make such a complaint about a Robert Altman film; for example, "Short Cuts." Nevertheless, such a film and such a book rely more for their effects on a composite approach. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The narrative is deftly handled. Especially notable are the sections where various subplots are crosscut, quickly cycling through each seemingly unrelated narrative strand a number of times.

It is true that the book doesn't conclude with a resolution that neatly unties the knot. Instead, it does something much better, which is to finish mysteriously, emotionally, realistically, and poignantly. All this should suggest that if you like stock stories, then caveat emptor. If you like more literary fare, then you'll be right at home.

Shaw makes a somewhat amusing plea to the reader to rest between the three parts of the book. I suppose if I'd foisted a 700 page book on potential readers I'd be a little worried too. But let's be realistic for a moment: It's a graphic novel! It still a very quick read.

Two minor criticisms: I was fine with the basic illustrations--the graphic part of the book doesn't reach nor attempt to reach the heights of some others in the genre. But I didn't like how Shaw adds words to describe non-dialogue physical features; for example, such as writing for sound effects, "shrug" on a shoulder or "grip" on a hand gripping something or writing "Purples" and "Pinks" so we know what color the sky is. An even more awkward example is when Dennis is cooling down after a hot run, and he places his head in front of a fan. On his forehead it says, "Cool air against the sweat on your forehead." Very clumsy. The other criticism: He names the family the Loonies. Really cute. Mercifully, this is mentioned only two or three times.

Recommended if you like: Adrian Tomine; David B.; Jason; Chris Ware; Charles Burns; Daniel Clowes; Rutu Modan; Allison Bechdel; Craig Thompson; or Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better borrowed than bought, I think... May 10 2011
By meeah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'd had several false starts with this book, taking it off and putting back on the shelf, feeling like I should want to read it, but finding myself put off by the drawing style. Its that sort of "careless" style affected by quite a number of cartoonists lately, scratchy and unfinished-looking, at best calligraphic and unique as a signature--at worst, leaving you with the suspicion that the artist simply cant draw.

Anyway, my b/f pulled the book off the shelf at the local library & told me he thought I'd like it. I didnt want to hurt his feelings with my misgivings so I took it out and kept my misgivings to myself.

Long story short: I finished "Bottomless Belly Button" in about three days. It was totally engrossing. The artwork is a lot more sophisticated than it appears at first glance--even at second glance. Dash (rhymes with "rash") Shaw has a wonderful way of portraying sequences, especially of everyday activities, like jogging, for instance, or making a bed. He makes these wordless passages interesting to look at. As for the plot--well, its about this family reunion at a beach house. The adult children of this couple come for a visit and are informed that their parents, who've been married for over 40 years, are getting divorced. One of the characters, Dennis, is particularly disturbed by this news and sets out to uncover the "mystery" of his parents's otherwise seemingly inexplicable marital rupture. Shaw (rhymes with "paw") manages to inculcate just enough nameless formless dread into the proceedings to keep you interested in this otherwise quotidian situation. At least he kept me reasonably interested in it. All the way through you get the sense that something really catastrophic is going to happen and I wont ruin the suspense by telling you that it doesnt, but anyone who's ever lived in a particularly dysfunctional family knows the feeling.

For a lot of reasons, including the author's preposterous name, I didn't want to like this book, but it won me over anyway. It even brought tears to my eyes in the final half-dozen pages. It's true, however, that I cry at practically the drop of a hat. And sometimes even at the picking up of a hat. Still, tears are tears.

I think, ultimately, as a graphic artist, particularly as a comic artist, one could learn a lot from "Bottomless Belly Button"--or a little, depending on how much you already know. Honestly, I could go on and on in this ridiculous, circuitous manner and, having not a lot better to do at the moment, I'm even inclined to do so, but I'll spare us all and sign off.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freaking Amazing Sept. 26 2008
By N. Gittlen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is one of the best comic books I've ever read. I picked it up at my local comics shop and read about half of it just standing next to the shelves. Buy the time I bought it my arm had cramped up from holding it. (At 720 pages it is no lightweight.) It's engaging and interesting and a fantastic story.
The author does a wonderful job of mixing the written text with the visual panels and the flow of the book is excellent. There are even a few coded messages that, if you're into that sort of thing, are great fun to figure out.
The last few pages are some of the best I've ever seen in how they tell the story through the medium of comics. I don't want to give anything away but I think that it could never have worked as well in any other form. Buy this book even if you aren't a big comics geek.
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