Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel Paperback – Oct 10 2000
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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...~
Most recent customer reviews
This book had a very original storyline.The voice of the main character was absolutely unique. In fact the entire book was unique. Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2013 by Sheri Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on Sept. 11 2009 by kerry thorne
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 morePublished on July 12 2004
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 morePublished on Sept. 30 2003 by Rachel
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 morePublished on Sept. 29 2003 by mc-darcy
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 morePublished on Sept. 22 2003 by Douglas King
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 morePublished on Aug. 10 2003
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.
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 morePublished on July 14 2003