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The Greatest of Marlys Paperback – September 26, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Charmingly illustrated and written in the voices of fictional preadolescents, Barry's comics (The Freddie Stories) alternate between delightful comedy and un-self-conscious poetry. Her comics catalogue the incremental maturation of the smart but unpopular preteen Marlys; her painfully sensitive little brother, Freddie; her big sister, Maybonne; her cousins Arna and Arnold; and occasionally the various adults in their lives. The book collects more than 200 of her syndicated four-panel strip Ernie Pook's Comeek, in which Barry deftly maps the emotional terrain of Marlys and the inevitable social traumas inherent in growing up. Alternating among the voices of the family, Barry offers stories on difficult teachers (Mr. Valotto has sideburns, wears turtleneck dickeys and "thinks he's hip"); boys (Marlys goes broke "buying Twinkies to split with Kevin Turner"); Marlys's difficult mother ("five guys asked her to marry them before she picked my father, the worst mistake of her life") and much more. While Barry can be funny presenting the silly escapades and fantasies of Marlys, Arna, Freddie and Arnold, her real talent is the very nearly poetic invocation of moments of pubescent joy and humiliation as well as of the wonder at the fast-approaching, mysterious state of being a teenager. Her black-and-white drawings are crudely drawn, yet lyrical and emotionally complex. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The popularity of Barry's comic strip "Ernie Pook's Comeek," an alternative newspaper mainstay, continues unabated after 15 years, but earlier collections of it are out of print. Sasquatch Books began rectifying that situation with The Freddie Stories (1999) and continues in this generous collection focused on preteen Marlys without neglecting her teenaged sister, Maybonne, their freaky little brother, Freddie, and assorted cousins and neighbors. Marlys and her siblings have it tough. Their father is absent, their mother detached, and their existence hardscrabble. They find comfort in childhood joys that most will recognize, from baton lessons and toys from Sears to first love and the last day of school. The fortification they derive from those simple pleasures helps them survive the callous teachers, ruthless classmates, and vicious dogs that afflict them at every turn. The most popular member of "Ernie Pook's" cast, Marlys is endearingly gawky. That description also fits Barry's seemingly crude but deceptively expressive drawings, which perfectly capture the messiness and excitement of adolescence. Gordon Flagg
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