10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2012
"The Voyeurs is the work of a mature writer, if not one of the most sincere voices of her literary generation. It's a fun, honest read that spans continents, relationships and life decisions. I loved it."--Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library
"As she watches other people living life, and watches herself watching them, Bell's pen becomes a kind of laser, first illuminating the surface distractions of the world, then scorching them away to reveal a deeper reality that is almost too painful and too beautiful to bear."-- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
"A master of the exquisite detail, Bell provides a welcome peephole into our lives."--Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker
The Voyeurs is a real-time memoir of a turbulent five years in the life of renowned cartoonist, diarist, and filmmaker Gabrielle Bell. It collects episodes from her award-winning series Lucky, in which she travels to Tokyo, Paris, the South of France, and all over the United States, but remains anchored by her beloved Brooklyn, where sidekick Tony provides ongoing insight, offbeat humor, and enduring friendship.
Gabrielle Bell's work has been selected for the 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 Houghton-Mifflin Best American Comics and the Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction, and has been featured in McSweeney's, The Believer, and Vice magazines. "Cecil and Jordan In New York," the title story of her most recent book, was adapted for the screen by Bell and director Michel Gondry in the film anthology Tokyo! She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
"Graphic memoir" only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection. Who are "The Voyeurs?" In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience "uncomfortable," even "creepy," though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, "I feel I need to disclaim this `story.' I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there's not much to it, and I can't back out now. It's my compulsion to do this, it's my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in." The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding "How I Make My Comics," of her creative process: "Then I want to blame everyone I've known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I'm totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I'm done." Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre's artists.