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What It Is Hardcover – May 13, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; 1 edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897299354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897299357
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Every so often a book comes along that surpasses expectations, taking readers on an inspirational voyage that they don't want to leave. This is one such book. Each page is a feast for the eyes with beautiful full-page collages of photographs, watercolors, ink drawings, and text, resulting in a gorgeous volume that explores and encourages writing in a combination of ways. The author challenges readers with philosophical questions to ponder, such as What is an image? Where are they found? Can we remember something we can't imagine? The volume also acts as a workbook that successfully encourages teens to explore their own creativity through writing. In addition, autobiographical glimpses of Barry's journey from childhood to adulthood appear throughout the book. The struggles and obstacles she faces while following her path of becoming an artist and writer allow readers to believe in the possibility of writing themselves. This stunning book will appeal to those teens who are interested in delving into their creativity through words and art. The questions posed and valuable exercises that exist within its pages, along with the illustrations, could also make this book a valuable tool for English and art teachers in the classroom.–Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Lynda Barry:

“Barry is, underneath the wonky handwriting and the quirky, naïve drawings, a great memoirist . . . Like [Tobias] Wolff and [Dave] Eggers, she finds a tone that accommodates self-criticism and self-irony without tipping over into self-loathing . . . but what she is particularly good at is resonance.” —The New York Times
 
“Barry is not just a storyteller, she’s an evangelist who urges people to pick up a pen—or a brush . . . and look at their own lives with fresh, forgiving eyes.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“America’s leading cartoon artist of childhood angst . . . The precise rightness of Barry’s smallest observation puts TV’s The Wonder Years to shame.” —Entertainment Weekly

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

Lynda Barry is a writing treasure!
gretchen g turner
This is a great book for anyone who's ever felt stuck writing or drawing (or just in the creative process).
Bonnie Svitavsky
I bought this book as a gift for my sister.
Sarah K. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Reading my way thru life on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this after reading about it on Kelly Kilmer's blog, where she highly praised this repeatedly and made me think that I was missing out on something wonderful if I didn't buy it.
So I bought it, and what I found out is that I had been missing out on something wonderful!!

I couldn't be more happy that I bought this book! First of all this book surprised me in that it is nicely sized 8.5 x 11 (approx) and it's much THICKER than I had imaged it, and it's HARDCOVER.(I was expecting a soft cover magazine type book)So, after I admired the outside, and opened it up, I was even more impressed and excited with what I found!! Yes, I thought I was in comic book/collage/art journal/writing prompt heaven!! With so much to look at, I just about wore myself out trying to look at/read everything. -Which is also a nice thing about this book, I am highly doubting that you'd run out of things to look at or read here.

This is kinda like looking at one of your school friends notebook, or journal, except SO MUCH BETTER! There are comic book pictures, random thoughts, journal prompts, drawings, ideas, etc, etc, etc. This is an awesome and inspiring book. This tops the list of coolest books that I own!!
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Weissman on May 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the essence of the creative writing course Lynda Barry gives around the country these days. It conveys the course stuff beautifully, AND is a work of art in its own right. Not a rehash of her other books in any way, it just worms its way into your mind.

Every page is beautiful, every page contains insights into creativity, every page is just plain fun (or just scary fun), and it has everything you need to apply the writing method Lynda uses in your own work.

You really can write out of your own memories, and come up with something that isn't drivel. Get the book and try it. And join Lynda in tipping your hat to Marilyn Frasca, who originated the method.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By R. Marcott on May 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever needed jumper cables to revive your creative process? This book is essentially just that.
I have long been a Lynda Barry fan, but this is what a sense will be an essential reference book for any creative type. It bores down into just what makes one want to create and suggests exercises and steps to get whatever festers inside you out.
To say that it has prompted me to fine tune my and understand my writing in much more depth would be an understatement. It also has gotten my to pick up my pencil and draw/sketch for the 1st time in over 15 years.
I am pretty sure i will be constantly reading and rereading this as i further hone the creation craft.
if you crave creation in any form, this book is a must.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By W. Donovan on July 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am an artist-teacher, and I wish someone had presented this information to me sooner.

The book has a front section that is sort of an artistic, stream of consciousness, diaristic account of Lynda Barry's own creative life. Followed by a workbook, which I didn't have any specific expectations about, but I was sitting there following the steps, and it was pretty amazing how effective the method Barry advocates is. It took me off guard, and I think I am going to use it next week in the class I teach.

Overall this book ranks somewhere around the best books I have ever read because it sort of snuck up on me, and made realize some stuff about myself and my creative process that I may have resisted in a less charismatic presentation.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Donna Otter on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I love this book and have already bought 3 more as gifts. I'm pretty sure that if I just walk around with this book or sit looking at it in coffeshops, bars and car repair waiting rooms, cool things are going to happen to me, mysterious images, strangers, forgotten childhood toys and monsters will come to visit. How can one book be so practical and so mystical at the same time? I'm so grateful to Lynda Barry and the magic cephalapod for making this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Holman on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the most important aspects of writing anything-- memoir, fiction, poetry--is the ability to remember. Sounds simple, but we forget so much naturally and are actively encouraged to forget what doesn't suit the needs of any particular group, usually family. Lynda Barry's wonderful primer on how to being to probe the images of your life is just grand
and will doubtless serve many artists and writers as they explore their lives and the lives of others. An exercise as simple as try to recall the earliest phone number you had and try to picture that phone seem so simple, but take you to places that you'd long forgotten.

Like everything by Barry, it's humane and masterful and compassionate and smart. A wonderful addition to any artist's desk.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Svitavsky on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I don't think I've ever sat down and read straight through a book of writing exercises. And, at a very basic level, that's what "What It Is" is. And I sat down and read through the whole thing, while taking time to digest it. It's about writing, drawing, images, memory, creativity, a magic cephalopod, and Lynda Barry's life. All done on a yellow legal pad of paper.

This is a great book for anyone who's ever felt stuck writing or drawing (or just in the creative process). Barry's collage work in the first half of the book gets you to ask yourself questions about imagery and memory. The second half has writing exercises and tips for how to make more for yourself. They're excellent and I can't wait to start using them. It's also probably the only time I'll ever cry over instructions for a writing exercise.

If there's anything that takes away from the book, it's that I wanted to see more about Barry's life. The short passages about her childhood and education are very interesting, but take up only a small portion of the book. It's somewhat depressing to hear that her comics became such a source of concern/depression for her, but I can understand that feeling of it becoming work and the pressure to only make "good" art. And I love her moments where she's talking with her husband and thinking of all the stuff she forgets, but goes over conversation she had years ago where she said awful things.

Okay, that's my awkward ending... go read this book.
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