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Bottomless Belly Button Paperback – June 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; 1ST edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560979151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560979159
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Shaw’s huge new work is, like The Mother’s Mouth (2006), about ordinary love. Its scope is, however, as much broader as its six-times-larger size suggests, while its technique is a lot simpler. It’s the story of what may be the last gathering of the Loony family at their oceanside home—last because, after 40 years, Mom and Dad are divorcing. Despite his wife Aki’s attempted calming, elder son Dennis is freaked and, when not out running or minding baby Alex, pokes into every nook and cranny to find incriminating evidence of either parent’s infidelity. Early wed, long-divorced daughter Claire and her daughter, 16-year-old Jill, are accepting and separately get away from the house for some unsatisfactory “social” life. The younger son, aspiring filmmaker Peter, hovers in the background and, mirabile dictu, meets a girl at the beach who actually likes him, as the single panel representing her perspective, in which Shaw draws Peter with a young man’s instead of a frog’s face, confirms. Employing the same cartoony-ness, bold line, and two-tone high contrast as in The Mother’s Mouth but dispensing with that book’s stylistic variety and fantasy effects, Shaw renders in comics situations and characters identical with those of mainstream realistic novels and movies and handles them with the sensitivity and humor of the best humanist novelists and filmmakers. --Ray Olson

More About the Author

Dash Shaw is a cartoonist and animator in Brooklyn, New York. His latest graphic novel is "New School", about two brothers on an island where an ambitious amusement park is under construction. His other books include the telepathy comedy "Bodyworld" and the family comedy-drama "Bottomless Belly Button". His animated works include the Sigur Ros video and Sundance selection "Seraph", "Wheel of Fortune", and the IFC series "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD." dashshaw.tumblr.com

Customer Reviews

In addition the characters have depth and the style is complex.
John
There are even a few coded messages that, if you're into that sort of thing, are great fun to figure out.
N. Gittlen
One of the best comics I've ever read, and miles above much of what passes for literary fiction.
picky reviewer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert T Canipe on July 5, 2008
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Max Martin on October 13, 2009
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Buzz Advert on July 3, 2009
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By meeah on May 10, 2011
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.
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