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Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel [Paperback]

Lynda Barry
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 10 2000
On a September night in 1971, a few days after getting busted for dropping acid, a sixteen-year-old curls up in the corner of her ratty bedroom and begins to write.
Now the truth can finally be revealed about the mysterious day long ago when the authorities found a child, calmly walking in the boiling desert, covered with blood.
The girl is Roberta Rohbeson, and her rant against a world bounded by "the cruddy top bedroom of a cruddy rental house on a very cruddy mud road" soon becomes a detailed account of another story, one that she has kept silent since she was eleven.
Darkly funny and resonant with humanity, Cruddy, masterfully intertwines Roberta's stories -- part Easy Rider and part bipolar Wizard of Oz. These stories, the backbone of Roberta's short life, include a one-way trip across America fueled by revenge and greed and a vivid cast of characters, starring Roberta's dangerous father, the owners of the Knocking Hammer Bar-cum-slaughterhouse, and runaway adolescents. With a teenager's eye for freakish detail and a nervous ability to make the most horrible scenes seem hilarious, Cruddy is a stunning achievement.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Lynda Barry's illustrated novel Cruddy has not one but three equally alarming openings. The first is a suicide note: "Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs." The next is a description of the lurid crucifix that hangs over the narrator's bed: "Some nights looking at him scares me so bad I can hardly move and I start doing a prayer for protection. But when the thing that is scaring you is already Jesus, who are you supposed to pray to?" The third is worthy of a nightmare fairytale, beginning "Once upon a cruddy time on a cruddy street on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe..."

She's not exaggerating. It's 1971, and 16-year-old Roberta Rohbeson lives in what looks very much like hell. It's five years after the Lucky Chief Motel Massacre, after which Roberta was found wandering the desert, covered with blood and clutching her dog, Cookie, who suffers from "incurable skin problems." Even now, Roberta still won't talk about what happened. She lives with her mother and sister on the aforementioned cruddy street, hides in the weeds during her lunch period, and eventually befriends some suicidal misfits like herself. The novel intercuts their chemically enhanced adventures with scenes from a gore-filled road trip taken five years before. Hint No. 1: Roberta's father used to run a slaughterhouse. Hint No. 2: The maps inside the front covers have keys that read "Dead People We Left Behind" and "Places There Were Blood."

Barry came to fame as a cartoonist, and though the humor in her strip Ernie Pook's Comeek is dark, nothing in it could prepare her fans for the sheer horror of Cruddy. The novel is funny, sort of, as long as you think naming a knife Little Debbie is funny, or lines like "A man who has been dead for a week in a hot trailer looks more like a man than you would first expect." What's more, it's compulsively, almost harrowingly, readable, written with the kind of velocity that makes you keep turning pages even when you don't want to. Despite the hallucinogenic quality of the violence around her, Roberta is never anything less than real, and her story will strike chords in anyone whose childhood was marked by ugliness and fear. Cruddy may be a bad acid trip, but if you can stomach the ride, it's a very good book. --Mary Park --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Barry, whose recent graphic novel, The Freddie Stories, took as its subject the dysfunctional family from her newspaper cartoon strip, now takes us into the head of an indomitable 16-year-old. Roberta Rohbeson lives with her mother and half-sister, Julie, in a crumbling neighborhood overlooking a garbage-filled ravine. Roberta's energetic voice carries us along two story-lines. In one, Roberta and a classmate, Vicky, cut school and meet up with a series of low-life young men. Simultaneously, Roberta provides us with a running account of a cross-country crime spree with her father when she was 11. This trip involves three suitcases full of money, lots of alcohol, gore, putrefaction, and some of the most desolate, godforsaken locales in modern fiction. It also contains more violence than this reader can usually tolerate, yet Roberta's wacky, irrepressible outlook makes her story fresh, compelling, and sometimes hilarious. Does Roberta survive? All I can say is, she gets my vote as one of the all-time great unreliable narrators. Recommended for most fiction collections.AReba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
WHEN WE first moved here, the mother took the blue-mirror cross that hung over her bed in our old house and nailed a nail for it in the new bedroom of me and my sister. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devasting . . . April 1 2004
This is a very difficult book to put down or soon forget. I've read a lot of ugly things in my life but this book touches on a deeper level because of this young child's age and the horrors she endures daily in her truly "cruddy" life. If it weren't so darned sad when thought about it'd be almost funny. Wish this book had been around when I was 14 or so and my own life may not have looked quite so bleak to me after having read it. The author has a knack for digging into an adolescent's mind and really brings that painful period of time of young adulthood (those ugly years when one is 13 - 17) alive in a brilliantly, devastating way.
The cruelties continue to the very last page. Somehow I wasn't left feeling depressed but actually relieved at the eventual outcome. I can't say it was an altogether enjoyable reading experience, although I did laugh out loud a few times, but I sure couldn't stop turning the pages. The illustrations completely capture the feel of the book. Recommended to the strong of stomach.
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2.0 out of 5 stars I love Lynda, but... Nov. 25 2003
By A Customer
...I'm sorry, I don't love this one. Far from it. I guess the writing was fairly good, but I was left cold, empty, and upset by it.
I know not to expect hearts and flowers - and I wouldn't want them anyway. Something that impresses me about Lynda's work is her capturing of a certain type of gritty verite prevalent in the 70s. Lynda's cartoons have always included a fair amount of despair in that particular 70s fashion (sex, drugs, hopelessness, ruin) - to be contrasted with things of simple beauty, the whole of which makes cartoons that really ring true. I've been a fan of her comics for the last 15 years, at least.
"Cruddy", however, freaks me out beyond description. It takes this type of verite to an extreme. It has a sensibility that is just TOO gritty, TOO nihilistic, TOO steeped in the sense that tomorrow doesn't exist at all, for me to be comfortable with. I have trouble with this. I was surprised because I enjoy edgy stuff, I read a lot of underground comix, I enjoy women writers, and I really dig "weird". I did not, however, dig this.
Granted, if you enjoy (or at least don't mind) a "no-hope" feeling to your fiction, then you will probably enjoy it very much. I'm surprised at the amount of really great reviews, and I'm wondering if I missed something - or if a relentless undercurrent (and overcurrent) of horror and hopelessness really can be attractive.
Personally, I feel that the end doesn't justify the means, here. I know I'm in the minority, and that's fine, but I just wanted to let folks know that this book will not appeal to all lovers of edgy fiction. Caveat lector.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All hail Lynda! May 8 2003
"Cruddy" is among the mightiest stories ever told, I kid you not. For laughing-and-crying-and-changing-your-outlook-of-humanity, it's right up there with "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Lord of the Flies".
It sucks you through the everyday squalor and horrors of childhood, and weaves in a cracking good killing-spree-road-trip story in the same breath without changing tone. There's sombreness and hilarity told in the same flawless voice, even when drunk or drug-addled, and there's heart-wrenchingness along with the gut-wrenchingness. We get Saggy Underwear Man and "the cheapest chintziest most pig-lipped tightwad skanked-out lardo king landlord of all time", and we also get Roberta wondering why she still loves The Father after all the abuse and murders and death-threats.
But I think above all "Cruddy" is an adventure story, and the world definitely needs more Girl Road Trip stories like this (this makes On The Road look like church-school). Every time I read it, I don't want it to be finished, because the world looks that much more different every time the story's over.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by literature Oct. 24 2002
I've just finished reading this book for a college lit class. When I read the back cover, I truly expected this book to fall well under my definition of "cruddy" reading. But the narative style took me by the throat on page 3 and never let go until I finished the book and realized I hadn't put it down all day. The style itself is very sharp, very blunt, and rich with character. Roberta's personality shows through and it is a strong one.
Also, for a refreshing change, the teen-writing-memoirs-of-life-in-hell is not a self-pitying teen. If you can find any self-pity in this book, it will be with the help of a magnifying glass and "certain substances."
Now, don't get me wrong: this book IS full of murder, drugs, and poverty (though surprisingly little sex). It does require a certain amount of resiliance to some of the more... vivid... details. However, one of the reasons I found this book so enjoyable is that Roberta's life story is so utterly tragic, it becomes unbelievable. Oh, it is quite realistic in her reality. But in ours? I think at times the author exaggerates her point a bit too much.
Not that this is a hinderance to the book's quality, mind you. I shall end my review by quoting my personal favourite line in the book:
~...And in the next cubicle the restrained and tripping Vickey Talluso was screaming "DON'T YOU NARC ME OUT, ROBERTA! IF YOU NARC ME OUT I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL YOU!"
But the author didn't want to narc anyone out. All she wanted to do was deliver the fantastic message of Truth plus Magical Love equals Freedom, but this was obviously a message the police and the mother could not comprehend...~
Happy reading!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
This book had a very original storyline.The voice of the main character was absolutely unique. In fact the entire book was unique. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Sheri Lowe
5.0 out of 5 stars i loved this book
I had heard the author Lynda Barry in an interview on cbc radio and was inspired to order this book. It was one of the best books i have read in a long time. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2009 by kerry thorne
5.0 out of 5 stars I Heart Cruddy
This is my new favorite book. Lynda Barry is an incredible writer. I could not put this book down. Amazing story. Amazing character development. Read more
Published on July 12 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars FrOsTeEfReEzE2 :)
I read Lynda Barry's Cruddy ... and it was one of the best (if not the best) books I've ever read. It told a story about a teenaged girl who looks back on the tradgedies of her... Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2003 by Rachel
4.0 out of 5 stars great writing, not a lot of substance
The writing in this book is fantastic. This author's approach is far from most; the protagonist sees the ugly instead of the beauty in everything (hence the title). Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by mc-darcy
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly Beautiful
I really enjoyed this book. I think people have a habit of idealizing childhood once they grow up, and forgetting how confusing, painful and even horrible it can be, especially... Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2003 by Douglas King
5.0 out of 5 stars Doe anyone know ANYTHING anything AT ALL besides the fact ..
Although I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do not believe it is possible to hate Cruddy as much as the disatisfied reader from Dayton, Ohio. Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, cruddy!
I'm a fan, but not a huge fan, of Lynda Barry's cartoons. But I LOVE this book. It's so cruddy!
If you know why that's good, you'll probably love it, too.
Published on July 19 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars A cruddy piece of "literature"
This is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I cannot think of a more dismal piece of "literature" that I have ever finished reading. Read more
Published on July 14 2003
I love Lynda Barry but I knew this wasn't going to be an easy ride. Do I really care about these incredibly ignorant and troubled people? Read more
Published on July 1 2003 by traceybeehive
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