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Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel Paperback – October 10, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Ill edition (October 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068483846X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684838465
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lynda Barry has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher and found they are very much alike. She is the inimitable creator behind the seminal comic strip that was syndicated scross North America in alternative weeklies for two decades, Ernie Pook's Comeek featuring the incomparable Marlys and Freddy, as well as the books One! Hundred! Demons!, The! Greatest! of! Marlys!, Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel, Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies!, The Good Times are Killing Me which was adapted as an off-Broadway play and won the Washington State Governor's Award. Her bestselling and acclaimed creative writing-how to-graphic novel for Drawn & Quarterly, What It Is, won the Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel and R.R. Donnelly Award for highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author. D+Q plans to publish a multivolume collection of Ernie Pook's Comeek, Barry's next prose novel, and the follow up and creative drawing companion to What It Is, November 2010's Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book.

Born in Wisconsin in 1956, Lynda studied at Evergreen State College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By E. Rocha on April 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had never heard of Lynda Barry before getting a tip about this book from another Amazon reader. For some reason I was expecting something along the lines of Phoebe Gloeckner's "Diary of a Teenage Girl"...graphic novel about girl coming of age in the 70's, etc.

But this is no memoir--at least, I hope not! It isn't really even a graphic novel in the traditional sense; Barry's crude paintings (done with charcoal? paint? hard to tell) interspersed throughout the narrative evoke the dark and ugly mood of the book perfectly, but they're miles away from comic-book realism.

This is a wildly-imaginative, horrifying book about Roberta Rohbeson, the story itself made even more surreal by the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol she as the narrator consumes, both as an 11 and 16 year old.

Roberta is tormented and abused at the hands of her nomadic father, who takes her on a roadtrip littered with corpses and who calls her Clyde and introduces her as a mute mongoloid. This is a girl who considers herself so ugly as a result of his violence, she becomes uncomfortable when people even glance her way. She's pitiable in the most obvious sense, but she's also smart and tough--and carries a knife named "Little Debbie" to protect her from the evil she (rightly) expects to encounter at every turn.

There's shenanigans and drug-and-alcohol induced exploits, of course, which drew comparisons to "Fear and Loathing" on the jacket cover, if I remember correctly. But it's not a one-trick pony, as Barry's character development skills are stunning. There's Roberta herself, her dim-witted and hysterical sidekick Vicky Talluso, the Father (referred to only as such), an erstwhile druggie hookup named Turtle, the flabby abusive hillbilly bartender Pammy, and many more.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Karen on December 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Up in heaven, Flannery O'Connor wishes she could come back as Lynda Barry.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
How does Lynda Barry do it? A Mass murderous father, knives with pet names, hallucinagens named "creeper", a fascination with the social lives of flies -- Certainly my childhood was nothing like this. So why does Roberta Rohbeson remind me so strongly of exactly what it was like to be an adolescent girl? I predict this will become a cult classic for girls who will hide it from their disapproving parents and read it under the sheets with a flashlight. For us grown up girls, it's one hell of a good read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By O. Dvorak on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have been a Lynda Barry fan ever since I was a wee tot, so perhaps I am a bit biased in this review... While reading Cruddy, I had a difficult time grasping that the book was fictional,despite all of the far out charatures and events that take place. After finishing the book, I found my mind wandering back into the book's harsh and bittersweet world,which to many, living off the backroads in many a cruddy town scattered across this country, is not far from reality. Furthermore, Lynda Barry specializes in illuminating characters who would otherwise languish, misunderstood and unaccounted for, particularly children and adolescents of alcoholic, abusive and psychotic parents(often refugees from wrecked marriages who resentfully regard their offspring as merely a nuisance contributing to the eternal drudgery of their lives) All of the elements in this book do(in some form) exist, in a spectrum of reality that most would prefer to be sheltered from, and Lynda Barry weaves them into a wonderful, mesmerizing, strangely comical albiet macabre piece of fiction. I would furthermore encourage anyone to pursue other works by Lynda Barry, such as her long running comic series Ernie Pook. Barry is a one of a kind master of her craft, be it in comic strip or literature form.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Cadaver on May 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
"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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ann-marie keene on January 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
i could not put this book down. i visited a friend and as she was cleaning out her closets & organizing, she tossed me this book & said "i've been reading this, take a squizz & see if you like it" i hate reading. i can never find books that hold my attention at all. but as soon as i opened this book i was HOOKED. i read the first 5 chapters & then i had to go scrounge up the $12 to buy my own copy. i haven't ever purchased a book before (except for my kids) and i finished the book in one day...i can't even begin to explain how great it is. the way it's written is wonderfully confusing, as it travels back & forth in time...the way lynda describes the dirty dingy world of roberta, i felt like i was roberta myself. i felt her feelings, smelled what she smelled, saw what she saw...
by reading this book, i have now become a reader...i can't wait to read more books if they're going to make me go to another place like this one did.
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