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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively simple
Engaging first-person fiction told by a thirtyish unsuccessful artist whose father's onerous will pushes him into a reluctant attempt to take over authorship of a nationally syndicated comic. The comic strip, a fictional image of Family Circle called Family Funnies, is, to the real life family of its creator but a mockery of the reality of their dysfunctional...
Published on March 8, 2000 by Ronald St. John

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Writing, Great Dialogue, Okay Story, So-So Finish
Lennon's writing is some of the most vivid and energetic I've seen. He's strongest with his metaphors , but working hard beneath those great images are his very concrete nouns and verbs. Crisp, fast, and quite humorous writing are Lennon's trademarks. His dialogue is also dead-on and often hilarious. His characters not only speak, they also do -- notice how much they...
Published on October 17, 1999 by vanishingpoint


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively simple, March 8, 2000
This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
Engaging first-person fiction told by a thirtyish unsuccessful artist whose father's onerous will pushes him into a reluctant attempt to take over authorship of a nationally syndicated comic. The comic strip, a fictional image of Family Circle called Family Funnies, is, to the real life family of its creator but a mockery of the reality of their dysfunctional household. As the narrator goes through a private tutelage tantamount to a comic-strip boot camp, he also comes to grips with his family relationships, love life, self-image, and artistic ambitions.
The author's thoroughly engaging style is deceptively simple. The observations about life and family in the 90's are presented in a realistic, subtle way. Reviewers who longed for a more vivid portrayal of the abusive father are missing the point. For the father to be an ambiguous, and mostly mysterious, character, who was an uptight heavy drinker with some skeletons in the closet, is entirely realistic. You can complain about not understanding why the siblings are not closer, but real life presents situations even more inexplicable.
This book is an easy, fun read, that is also thought-provoking, memorable, realistic, and heart-warming.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Humor, but a Well-Written Story, June 29, 2008
This review is from: The Funnies: A Novel (Paperback)
This was billed as an hilarious novel by J. Robert Lennon, and since it is based on the hokey comic strip "Family Circus" and takes as its premise one character's attempt to take over the lame enterprise, I was very interested to read it.

I was genuinely surprised to find that there isn't a laugh in this book, which is not to say that I didn't like it. The family dynamics are complex and interesting, and the dialog is intelligent. Tim Mix is left nothing by his father, except the expectation that he take over the family comic strip, the embarrassing "Family Funnies." What ensues is Tim's attempt to become a cartoonist, and his interactions with difficult family members who all have their burdens from a very difficult past. Anyone who has parents or siblings will understand the deeper meanings here.

However, hilarity did not ensue for me. I found the story challenging and a bit sad in places, and there were complexities that one wouldn't expect to find in what is billed as a comedic novel. Other people find it very funny, so perhaps what is missing is my gene for dark humor. In any event, I recommend The Funnies simply because it is a good story well told. Your mileage may vary with regard to any laughs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Quite Well-Written, April 15, 2002
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This review is from: The Funnies: A Novel (Paperback)
In this second novel by J. Robert Lennon, we meet Tim Mix, whose father has just passed away and left his middle son nothing --- except the chance to humiliate himself, and possibly find out something in the process.
His father is the longtime cartoonist and creator of "The Family Funnies", which is uncannily like "The Family Circus" of the real funny papers. The hitch is the fact that the Mix family is not the sweet and sugar-coated family with the "aw-shucks" sense of humor as for many years portrayed in the patriarch's creation. Instead, they are a good old fashioned American family of the twenty-first century---- that's right, disfunctional! And it just so happens that the fact that Carl Mix (the creator) has frozen his children in time and has portrayed them as they perhaps never were. In fact, he has alienated and angered each of the Mixes with his different portrayals of each in his skewed comic strip, even going so far as to skip one of his children altogether, never including him within its pages.
As if that doesn't make things bad enough, Tim Mix, the middle of the five children and failed artist, now just past the thirty mark, is left with the strip to continue in his father's absence. He immediately becomes angry and says no. But, of course, he changes his mind, or else there wouldn't be a book.
There are many problems along the way, like the fact that he isn't a definite choice. He needs to prove himself in the alotted ninetydays, lest the strip be given to a more able (and willing) artist. Along the way, we also meet fictional versions of the creators of such strips as "Cathy," "Garfield," and "The Simpsons" (sort of). A Fictional Charles Schultz is portrayed as an avuncular patriarch of all of cartoondom.
The book is very well-written and, throughout most every page, very funny, in a self-deprecatory way. Tim Mix is a bit of a black sheep, along with his mentally unstable brother Pierce. Each of the Mixes is different, and Lennon does a fantastic job in his characterization of each, as well as his dialogue exchanges between them.
For those of you who have read "The Light of Falling Stars," Lennon has improved upon his narrative skills here, giving this reader at least a real reason to care about the characters. It's no instant classic, but it's a very pleasurable read with a message embedded within about the blame that is appointed to one's family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended!, June 14, 2000
By 
Meg Brunner (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
Very funny novel about the wildly disfunctional family of a cartoonist who drew a Family-Circus-esque strip featuring his kids and wife. When he dies suddenly, his children, now semi-estranged from the family, are pleased when they get a pretty even distribution of the wealth -- all except for Tim, who is left the strip and given three months to learn how to draw it like his father did or get nothing. Succeeding means selling out, but it also means inheriting a gold mine. Very well-written and unexpectedly comic in sections. I really enjoyed this!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Writing, Great Dialogue, Okay Story, So-So Finish, October 17, 1999
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This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
Lennon's writing is some of the most vivid and energetic I've seen. He's strongest with his metaphors , but working hard beneath those great images are his very concrete nouns and verbs. Crisp, fast, and quite humorous writing are Lennon's trademarks. His dialogue is also dead-on and often hilarious. His characters not only speak, they also do -- notice how much they move, gesticulate, frown, smile, etc. It all helps to build some serious dose of characterization.
Unfortunately, the plot doesn't have the magical touch like his writing. Although the book starts off nicely enough, the ending is visible at about the midpoint of the novel. Not only that, but the transformation of Tim Mix, the protagonist of the novel, is tough to buy. Not because Lennon didn't give us enough warning -- he does, and plenty of it -- but because it's just so...lame. He turns into a goodie-goodie and I just couldn't swallow it. Sorry.
And is it just me or is the ending of this book kinda reminiscent of Vonnegut's "Bluebeard"? The potato barn = the warehouse?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars my story, May 1, 2000
This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
"The Family Circus" is about the worst strip in the comics, annoyingly unfunny. "Funnies" is a roman a clef about it, with creators of other strips like "Cathy" and "Garfield" making appearances. I liked this book an awful lot, because in some ways it's my story: Dad was a famous cartoonist, mom in a nursing home, etc. Regardless, I think this is an excellent book, and very funny, which I don't think other reviewers dwelled on. The major flaw in the book was the author's lack of understanding of the business of comics. A creator like Mix would have owned his own strip. His syndicate could not "take away" the comic. If they found a loophole that would allow them to fire his son and successor, they would still owe the family royalties.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lennon is the man with the comic strip plan, March 17, 2003
By 
BLADE (West Virginia, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
If you're looking for action, please walk away. If you want edge-of-your-seat excitement, then turn your divert your eyes, for you will not find those in the books that are Lennon's novels. No, J. Robert Lennon doesn't dwell on car crashes that turn out to be some secret plot to revive Hitler. He doesn't try and swoon his audience with lava avalanches careening toward a bus of nuns and orphans who are singing hymns on their way to volunteer for the homeless. This isn't Lennon's genre. You see, Mr. Lennon works with slow, but captivating, novels that let your mind relax and watch what's unraveling without having to hit the rewind button. This book, The Funnies, is my favorite one so far. I think I was able to connect with the characters more, since they're relatively young. Plus the quarrels between the brothers and sisters-a common thing, especially with Pierce, the son that seems to have been left out of his father's weekly comic strip, The Family Funnies-seem to hit right at home with me.
If you're a fan of the actual strip The Family Circus, you should find this book entertaining since much of the jokes are the same; wholesome entertainment that is fitting for all ages. Though there are some parts that may be too graphic for some readers, I'm sure everyone will have a good time when they read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Fun, August 31, 2011
This review is from: The Funnies: A Novel (Paperback)
This is not a very deep or very thickly plotted novel. It's a very basic story, really. That said, it's a great read and very fun all the way through. The story of a reluctant artist who takes over his deceased father's famous comic strip, "The Funnies" is all about dysfunctional families that appear perfect to everyone else. An obvious satire of "The Family Circus" cartoon strip, this book is never mean spirited, even when it's being critical. Full of great, well-rounded characters and very realistic dialogue, it reads very well. It's fun, but it's also touching.

Best part? The ending is not remotely the one you're expecting all the way through it. It's a simple read, but frankly I'm the kind of guy who likes that once in a while. Just kick back and enjoy it. It's not paper-thin, but it's not ocean-deep, either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely novel, January 17, 2005
By 
F. Mercer "bibliophile" (Saratoga Spings, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Funnies: A Novel (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, having finally picked it up after years of it being on my wishlist! Tim Mix is not an instantly likeable character, but as he grows throughout the novel, he becomes so. The relationship between Tim and his schizophrenic brother Pierce is reminiscent of Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True--both young men seem to have been awfully damaged by their father but build a beautiful relationship in the aftermath of his death when lack of finances on Tim's part throw them together for the first time in years. Descriptions of New Jersey, specifically travel around auto-packed central Jersey, were right on. The humor throughout the novel was sly. It was fun to figure out at just whom Lennon was poking fun at the cartoonists' convention. A worthwhile read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars agreeing with the High Fidelity reviewer, February 23, 2000
This review is from: The Funnies (Hardcover)
"The Funnies" started off on the right foot-- Tim's struggling relationship, the death of his father, the introduction of the family members-- but slowly became a nice, sweet, simple story, one that did not for one moment surprise me.
I agree that one of the biggest problems with the storyline was the exclusion of flashback, of anything to give me a concrete sense of the father's abusiveness. Dad was never anything other than an enigma, an amorphous blob that we keep expecting to come to understand at least in some small way.
The relationship with the first girlfriend felt honest and true; the second girlfriend was completely two-dimensional. Their relationship was as dull as dry toast. I kept hoping that Tim would hightail it back to his infinitely more-interesting art-poseur life of the first 50 pages.
The writing was certainly competent, and often poignant and rich and on-the-money, but the rhythm and pacing of it never changed, like a long-distance runner who clocks 9 minute miles, every mile.
I was reminded several times of the book's filmic potential; the storyline is very linear and is filled with clear-cut characters. This is not a compliment nor a criticism, just something I noticed.
I also would recommend Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" for a much more passionate, inspired and unique portrayal of a 30-ish man trying to find his place in the world.
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The Funnies: A Novel
The Funnies: A Novel by J. Robert Lennon (Paperback - February 1, 2000)
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