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How To Be Happy Hardcover – August 28, 2014
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“The success of this collection suggests that short pieces are likely Davis' métier, but what's here is so accomplished that it's natural to hope for a book-length work next time out.”
- Gordon Flagg, Booklist
“...How to be Happy [is] an imaginative collection of graphic literary short stories... Don’t be fooled by the title, though; you won’t find the key to happiness in these illustrations. Instead, the story that emerges from them forms a cryptic play on society’s expectations for happiness.”
- Amber Hage-Ali, Columbus Alive
“Though Davis' tales can be wildly different in look and narrative, they are united by themes of yearning, of characters searching for the thing that will make their lives better. ...Remarkable ... exquisite ... How to Be Happy left me wanting more.”
- Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times
“Lies! Deceit and rank mendacity! Eleanor Davis promises what current pop music insists is perfectly possible ― that you can be happy ― and then she doesn't deliver. Instead she draws comics full of hilarious surrealism, gut-tugging tropes and eloquent despair. How dare she? ... In her roundabout way, she dramatizes not the prospect of happiness, but the promise of it. Her natural territory is found in all the funny and tragic effects of that promise.”
- Etelka Lehoczky, NPR Books
…[Davis's] stories often feature tremendous longing and sadness, but they also lushly suggest what a blessing it is to be alive and in the world. She presents, in short, a more realistic picture of what it means to be a human, with our ever-present mind/body tug-of-war, than almost anyone else out there making art. And what art it is: there may be nothing Davis can’t beautifully illustrate. …How to Be Happy is fearless and fantastic, unafraid to break rules or to make new ones.”
- Hillary Brown, Paste
“[Starred Review] The excellence and variety of the art in this short comics story collection is matched only by the painful incisiveness of the stories, most circling around attempts both foolish and sincere to find happiness. Some of Davis's art styles are reminiscent of her children's books (Secret Science Alliance, Stinky)―simple supple black and white line drawings―others resemble Little Golden Books, bright blocks of colors and button nosed characters, but only as if written by Raymond Carver. ... A powerful collection that resonates with all the ills, real and imagined, of our modern life.”
- Publishers Weekly
“This collection... is impressively varied and emotionally resonant. With images ranging from scratchy black-and-white line drawings to robust images saturated with color, Davis is comfortable in a variety of styles, carefully choosing each one to best fit her tone and mood.”
- Kelly Thompson, Publishers Weekly
“...[How to Be Happy] is an inspired and inspiring collection of short work clearly establishing Davis as a leading cartoonist of the Tumblr era.... Davis' clever and sometimes jaw-droppingly beautiful artwork makes [these] stories feel real.”
- Dan Kois, Slate
“Eleanor Davis’ breakthrough short story collection How to Be Happy… is a gorgeous book filled with exquisite cartooning. Davis switches between styles and subject matter with each story, flitting between melancholy, heartbreak, and nostalgia with a casual virtuosity.”
- Tim O'Neil, The A.V. Club
“Sad or happy, Davis is one of the greats. So is this book.”
- Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
About the Author
Raised in Tucson, Arizona, Eleanor Davis lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband, the cartoonist Drew Weing.
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Davis is an amazing versatile visual artist. The collection of strips in the book showcases her talent. Her images go from the very simple linear and sketchy images, to the very painterly and detailed drawings, from the classic naturalistic drawings to the vectorial compositions, from the ezine-like comic strips to the surreal, from the slice of life to science fiction. She is good with black and white, and even better when she uses colours or sepias. Her colours are glorious.
From a narrative point of view, Davis is able to create stories that focus on the inner world of her characters: their feelings, emotions and thoughts, their approach to life, the way they 'see' the world. Her narrative is concise, precise and poignant, introspective, but also expressive and full of humour. Some of her worlds transport us to Sendak-ish magic worlds that one would like to explore in long books. Some of the texts in the book are brilliant despite their brevity. I especially like the "Darling, I've realised I don't love you", "I used to be so unhappy" and the statue of the best self, but there are a few brilliant mini-texts in this book.
I hated the story of the skinning of a fox, revolting to me, and the comic strip of the trip from Georgia to Los Angeles was OK.
This book was included in several lists of best graphic books of the 2015 I came across. I think the inclusion is well deserved as this book showcases Davis' talent perfectly.
I found the price for the Kindle edition a bit high, because this digital edition does not require of the use of paper, ink or manufacture. Besides, these stories were published previously not new for the book. Finally, I pay for the downloading of the bulky file myself to my Internet provider.