The thousands of devoted readers who follow the weekly chronicles of Bechdel's cartoon heroines--Lois, Sparrow, Ginger, Jezanna, and Mo, among others--probably already know that the strips read best in book form, where Bechdel's sly observations of lesbian life in the 1990s can blend with her ongoing narrative into something like a sketchy but provocative novel. Split-Level Dykes, the eighth collection in the series, is no exception. Its two dominant story lines--politically correct Mo commits herself to the brainy and self-absorbed Sydney, while Clarice and Toni, lesbian moms of color, nearly break up over their move to the great white suburbs--keep the reader enthralled and anxious, easy prey to the comic relief of Sparrow's heterosexual panic and the dating foibles of the swashbuckling Lois. With an anthropologist's eye for social detail, Bechdel fleshes out her two-dimensional world into something you could consider either the best kind of beach reading or the stuff of doctoral dissertations. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
It's moving day for Bechdel's (Hot, Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For, etc.) multicultural cast of characters in her latest collection of literate and satirical comic strips. Using breezy jargon, Bechdel redefines race and gender roles while taking aim at some of the pungent topics of the day (the impeachment drama, the restructuring of academe, the "reclamation" of gays via Christian conversion). Her characters are exceedingly bright and ambitious: Sydney is readying a book for publication and her postcoital chatter includes asides about literary deconstruction; recent Ph.D. Ginger mulls over a job offer from Buffalo Lake State U., a no-place that nonetheless attracted 463 applications for a teaching post with little pay and no perks. Much of the book concerns the "demographic rift," which begins when the house that Ginger, Lois and Sparrow occupy as a kind of latter-day commune is offered for sale and the trio decide to buy it themselves. Toni, Clarice and their son, Rafael, are also moving?from their apartment to a suburban house?despite Clarice and Ginger's sudden, lustful preoccupation with their old love affair. The disparate tales are tied together by a moving truck that everyone shares, ratcheting up the hectic atmosphere of the moving-day finale. Funny, irreverent and fearless, Bechdel delivers the thinking woman's funny papers. (Dec.) FYI: Bechdel's cartoons are syndicated in newspapers and periodicals in the U.S. and Canada.
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