on March 27, 1999
Lynda Barry's latest collection of comics is about a character we've met only briefly in her past books. Freddie is a gay (or, in his own words, El Fagatastico) adolescent who lives through a couple of truly unspeakable horrors. He witnesses death and abandonment, surrounded by hateful cousins, controlling friends, his drugged-out sister Maybonne (who, with any luck, will be the star of another book of her own sometime soon) and an unloving mother. His only ally is one of my favorite Lynda Barry characters, his gifted sister Marlys. These stories are as engaging and moving as any I've ever read. It's a cliche, but I have to say it: I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.
I first picked up a Lynda Barry book back in 1988, when I was a senior in high school. I didn't quite understand the comics, but they fascinated me. As I grew older I started to understand her more and more, and now I can honestly say that nobody else can write characters with whom I can identify quite like Ms. Barry. Keep churning them out, Lynda!
on June 15, 1999
Thank you, Lynda, for this whole book just about Freddie. Ever since I read about him in Ernie Pook's Comeek, spazzing out by the monkey bars with Spaz Eyes Gigi, I wished I could read more. As much as I love Marlys and Maybonne, I was glad that Freddie was such a wonderfully different character. The bits of light that appear in his frightening univers only serve to show how awful the rest of everything is. The exception to this--the burning stroke of genius in all of Barry's books about this family--is his relationship with Marlys. When he comes out of his burning-head phase, hers is the first normal face he sees. There's a reason for this: she keeps him not (too) crazy, and alive.
Read this book. Lynda Barry is awesome. No one is better at putting you directly inside a character. She isn't going for quick laughs. She's going for real life. And she hits it, dead on, time and time again.
on June 25, 2000
Remember how the tv show 'the wonder years' would always give you that feeling that your heart was about to break into a million pieces and make you die of sadness? This book has that same amazingly beautiful feel to it.
Lynda Barry is my punk rock dream come true, she should have her own national holiday...hmmmm.
Ok, this book makes me think so much of my younger years, as Freddie makes his way thru this confusing world. He's shy and arty, and has a pencant for calling himself 'Fag'.
It makes you wish that he'd burst thru his cartoon world pannel and liberate Peppermint Patty and Velma from their str8 boy dominated confines (and who knows, he may do just that...).
Anyway, this book isn't a book for kids per sey but details how I remember feeling growing up. Freddies only true friend being his sister Marlys, His mother who is a...i cant even think of a nice word...and his older sister Maybonne who is hooked on drugs and depressed...and that only scrapes the trauma that is delt with in this book of genius.
I can't possibly tell you how amazing this book is...You really have to see it for yourself...
on December 2, 2002
Lynda Barry is one of this nation's great writers. Many readers won't see her dazzling brilliance because they are distracted by her cluttered, sometimes messy cartooning. The pictures and words work together though, as does her unbreaking four-panel format, to create not just a fine comic, or a good book, but high literature and great art.
Freddie is a boy to whom, to put it bluntly, terrible things happen. In this wrenching novel he is beaten, abused, humiliated and ignored. At the depth of his wretched misery he drifts from his own body, and spends some time watching people watching the boy who looks just like him. Only his sister, Marlys sees that something is not right, and with the help of love, an amazing entity and a secret language, struggles to bring him back.
This amazing story is filled with monsters and gods, magic, dreams, and nightmarish horrors. It's villians are horrible; psychotic teens, mad, bullying classmates and emotionally twisted Moms. It's heroes -- Marlys, Spaz-Eyes Gigi, and Freddie himself -- are incredible.
Don't be put off by scribbled, cluttered panels, or the cartoon nature itself: This is one of the greatest novels I have read, and look forward to reading it again and again.
on December 25, 2003
I've been a big fan of Lynda Barry's cartoon-format books. This is certainly the darkest, most poignant one. It deals with the character Freddy,an odd child who tries to cope with his outcast status by boldly embracing his oddness and eccentricities. However, as is the case with all of Lynda Barry's cartoon books, the theme that people can be cruel and exploitative of weakness, particularly in childhood, takes over. The mother, who obviously suffers from an undiagnosed major depression, takes out her life's discontent on him; a sadistic classmate and an unsympathetic teacher further poor Freddie's descent into mental illness, which becomes fully manifest after recovery from a near-fatal illness (which, to drive home the point about the complete lack of love and attention this child so desperately needed, occurred because his babysitting sister was too busy getting stoned to realize he was falling into unconsciousness with fevers). The ending is painfully tragic, almost too difficult to read. What makes this book, like all of Ms. Barry's books, so fantastic is the recollection she has of how people of this age group talk. The choice of words, the cadence of speech, are written as if they are taken from a diary of a seventh grader. What I love about these books is we can all relate to some aspects of these stories to some extent through our own experiences, and other aspects vicariously (remebering a friend's mother or father who was neglectful or abusive), and the writing style makes it that much easier to get into that frame of mind/reference when reading the book. One takes away from these books (this one in particular) both a sense of nostalgia for childhood, as well as a realization that it wasn't always as wonderful as we remember; there were bad times too, and in many ways, we are lucky to not have had to endure what so many others like Freddie went through.
on March 25, 1999
I grew up queer, gifted and --um-- white trash, in a brutal world with little hope and no heroes. In "The Freddie Stories" Lynda Barry creates a character as true to that experience as any I have read, and shows that kids without heroes must become heroes... and Freddie/Skreddie is a true hero. Just as Lynda Barry re-forms the arts of narrative and cartooning to the demands of her unique and eloquent talents, her queer, gifted, white-trash Freddie reshapes his own world -- through a harrowing series of agonies -- into a place where cast-away kids become creatures of miracles. Not since "Bastard out of Carolina" has a writer approached this shadow world with Barry's insight, brilliance and compassion. Just as Holden Caulfield still speaks for disaffected youth, Freddie deserves to endure as a spokesman-hero for this particular tribe of disenfranchised of children. Note: the back cover is worth the price of the book.
on June 13, 2011
This is an amazing set of comix set sometime in the late 60s when I too was growing up in crazy dysfunctionalia right along with Freddy. Told from his sister MArlys point of view, these are amazingly vivid stories about what it was like to be a kid back then, a gay kid, a crazy kid, a poor kid, and just a kid, boy, girl, teenager, whatever. Lynda Barry speaks the truth and at times that truth is not pretty, but it's so real it slaps you upside the head with it's realness. The drawings have a childlike rawness that express strong emotion in a unique style.
on March 30, 2013
I love her comic strip small books. They all rule. She has touch with her child years that most of us have long forgotten and get a thrill when she reminds us of those days. Sure, it's her memory but it's childhood nonetheless and even when it's not our lives exactly, we recognize those early years, our version. And she is such a natural comic. I can reread her small comic strip books any time I find them around the house somewhere. This book, though wonderful, is like a touch less in comic gem mining compared to her other typical books. However, do not be dissuaded, git it. You'll be happy if you get her other comic books with this one as well. The only real problem with Lynda Barry is there's not more books. Gimme more! Ha. ciao, and God bless you chillin'.
on May 9, 1999
In looking over other reviews, I see that a few readers expected this book to be cute cartoons and were disappointed when it wasn't. Rather, it is a coherent, disturbing, poignant story of childhood that rings very true. Poor Freddie is treated badly by family, friends, and teachers and goes through psychological disorders that he deals with the best he can. Barry's writing in this book is sheer poetry. Read it as a book and not as a series of comic strips, and you'll find your reading experience rewarded. Highly recommended.
on August 1, 2002
Lynda Barry is always wonderful. Even when I begin to think that Fred Milton, Beat Poodle, is starting to become tiresome, I realize I'm mistaken if I pause for a moment to consider it again...
So buy a copy of The Freddie Stories. This is one of her best works, along with Cruddy and 100 Demons. Beautiful, sad, hilarious, touching, filled with truth and love and pain and Barry's amazingly funny magic.