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The Greatest of Marlys Paperback – September 26, 2000

4.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books; English Language edition (September 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570612609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570612602
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mona Gracen on January 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'd give this book 10 stars if I could. It is so beyond good. You are transported back to an earlier time and really made to remember what it was to be a child - especially a child in a dysfunctional family. Lynda Barry's comics touch upon some of the sadder moments of childhood and dysfunction without losing their comic and ironic edge. They allow you to laugh without getting bogged down in the misery. They allow you to understand the pain without forgetting to enjoy the little things. This is truly a work of comic art. Lynda Barry is one of the best comic artists of our time.
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Format: Paperback
Lynda Berry -- like Carson McCullers, Dorothy Allison and Earl Thompson -- writes brilliantly about the world of cast-off and broken children. [read her "The Freddie Stories" and "Cruddy" to see this world at its most tragic and beautiful.] But The! Great! MARLYS! is the sainted warrior of these damaged kids. It is through Marlys that Berry voices the finest of herself: her joy and genius and innocence. Marlys is the classic resiliant child and a beacon for kids who grow up with four strikes against them. She is one of the most heroic figures I have found in fiction.
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Format: Paperback
I love Marlys and her goofiness. She is alternately hilarious (as when she describes all the different methods of fake smoking, such as the gum cigarrette with its realistic coughing, or a hot dog, for when you're having hobo feelings) and touching (as when she describes her sister's threat to kill herself when the tree outside loses its last leaf - which prompts Marlys to glue a bunch of leaves back onto the tree). I love how she reminds me so poignantly of the bossy kid that I was, and the wacky things that kids think. This book is way worth it.
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Format: Paperback
I have most of the comics contained in this book by way of Ms. Barry's earlier collections. But this book really fills out the world of Maybonne, Marlys, Freddy, Arna, and Arnold by taking some of the best comics and creating a tapestry.
On the down side, I felt that some really good comics from the early 90's were left out, specifically the ones where Maybonne sees her friend being molested; those left an impact. But I guess it's the best of Marlys, so we can only hope for the best of Maybonne collection later.
The BIG plus of this collection is that Marlys is hilarious. Sometimes tragic-hilarious or poignant-hilarious, but almost always making me laugh. Some random quotes for your pleasure:
"Watch my magic finger." - Marlys, teaching a song "Watch my magic butt." - The great Arnold #1
"I hate you Squanto" - hand turkey, being shot by a Pilgrim with the help of Squanto.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Greatest of Marlys is my most recent book by Lynda Barry and I recommend it highly for a number of reasons. I am a white 63 year old doctor who has read, out of order, nearly everything Ms. Barry has published. I mention that because I am probably not her typical reader. Yet, I have learned much from her work and have great admiration for her insights into preadolescent boys and girls. Although probably based somewhat on her own experiences, she his extraordinary insight into the mental life of her characters. Her deliberately amateurish drawings are perfectly suited to stories she relates through her graphic art. No, these are not cartoons, in my opinion, but miniature stories with illustrations that give life to her characters narrative. Lynda Barry is, in fact, a true artist.
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Format: Paperback
No one can catch the poignant, perfect, sometimes heartbreaking, and usually funny in retrospect side of childhood like Lynda Barry. We all were Arna, Freddie, Arnold, Maybonne, and Marlys during some point in our youth as much as we might like to deny it! As I read these comics, the stories bring back the exact feelings I had when it was me doing the hand-turkey drawings, making shoe-box dioramas, and dancing in front of the mirror. If you want to relive the trauma, deliriousness, and great, great fun of being a child, Marlys and friends will bring it all back to you!
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Format: Paperback
Marlys is very real and her adventures are as heartbreaking as they are hilarious. Most of the cartoons in the series are just totally gut-bustingly funny, but many of them contain elements of pain that anyone who was ever a child will be able to relate to. Also, the poetry of Fred Milton, Beat Poodle is truly inspired. Barry has a genious for getting into the heads and souls of children (and Beat Poodles) and the results are wonderful. I recommend "The Greatest of Marlys" without reservation.
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Format: Paperback
This book includes strips from some of Lynda's other books that are out of print, like The Fun House and It's So Magic. Missing these is a crime to your book collection so thank god for the awesomly titled The! Greatest! of! Marlys! Lynda Barry's work perfectly hits on the altered mental state of childhood and adolescence in certain kinds of misfit, but creative and eternally hopeful people. If you know this kind of person this book will speak to you by name. Lynda Barry's dead-on honesty and great sense of absurdity are perfectly nailed with details like the language and thought processes of kids writing essays or creating makeshift newspapers or weird games to try to make the mundane world around them live up to their great hopes and imaginations. Including her essays, books, and other comics, she is one of my very favorite writers of all time.
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