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Accidental Discovery: Lynda Barry

Every library lover has at least one story about a  magical moment of serendipity when they stumbled across a book or author, previously unknown to them, who turns out to be a new favorite.  We all know that libraries are are great for that type of exploring — you can check out a fat stack of titles and revel in anticipation about what you might find.

I’m happy to report that the special feeling of library kismet is as alive and well for library employees as much as it is for library patrons (at least it is for me!). That’s how I came across Lynda Barry, a prolific comic author and artist who was undiscovered by me until I saw a recommendation for her book, One Hundred Demons, on the library’s website last year. Since picking up that title on a whim, I have been making my way through all of Barry’s work, and it’s safe to say I’m smitten by her unique art style, penchant for blending genres and focus on the power of creativity.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Barry became well-known for her quirky comic series, published in newspapers throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and later, online. In recent years, she’s published several titles that merge biography, fantasy, comics and creative how-to manuals into a new genre she’s dubbed “autobiofictionalography”. These titles, including Picture This, Syllabus and What It Is move fluidly between narrative, instructional guide and philosophical musings on the nature of creativity and creation.  Just as her writing style is a mélange, so too is her artistic style, which blends traditional linear comics with brush-and-ink drawings, doodles and collage.

A woman who tells her truth, finds freedom through creativity and who follows her own rules was just what I needed to find when I stumbled across Barry’s work. While Barry is certainly not unknown to the rest of the world (she’s been publishing work for decades and she was just inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2016), I had never heard of her before I stumbled across that library staff recommendation. I’m so glad I was immediately able to follow my interest and request the book online. Without the ability to follow up on that impulse, I would have really missed out!

Did you ever come across a new favorite author by happenstance? I’d love to hear about your discoveries in the comments.


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Ginny is a baker of treats, reader of fiction and Coordinator of Volunteer Services based out of the Office of Programs and Partnerships at CLP – East Liberty. She wants to pet your dog.

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