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Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor Paperback – October 21, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Structured as a handwritten composition book, this title uses prose within a graphic context to serve as a forum to teach aspiring young authors. It's written as though a creatively minded person were keeping a messy journal filled with ideas, notes, and scribbles. This book presents an inside look into Writing the Unthinkable, the cartoonist's highly popular writing workshop. Neither a graphic or prose novel, it requires readers to jump around to different boxed areas of words, which resemble those in a textbook, but attempts to do so in a hip, visual, new way. The end result is discordant and sloppy and may confuse, rather than inspire, young authors. VERDICT Those unfamiliar with comics guru Barry's previous work may find the format and style of this title extremely jarring. Stick with her What It Is (Drawn & Quarterly, 2008).—Ryan P. Donovan, Southborough Public Library, MA
“In recent years, Lynda Barry – half cartoonist, half guru, and entirely irrepressible – has created her own genre, handcrafting inspirational guidebooks about how and why to be creative… Scrawled out and doodled all over the page, collaged together with snippets of schoolwork, snatches of poetry, and drawings of weird-looking monsters, Barry's notes [in Syllabus] double as dispatches from a fertile unconscious, and testify once more to the unfathomable depths of human invention.” ―Globe & Mail
“Lynda Barry has spent the last few years blazing new trails in nonfiction cartooning with a series of books dedicated to illuminating the mysteries of the creative process . . . Once you pick [Syllabus] up, it's not easy to put it back down again.” ―AV Club Best Comics of 2014
“[Syllabus is] a must-read for Barry fans and deep thinkers.” ―London Free Press
“[In Syllabus, Lynda Barry] continues her investigation of what an image is. This book is charming and readable and serves as an excellent guide for those seeking to break out of whatever writing and drawing styles they have been stuck in, allowing them to reopen their brains to the possibility of new creativity. Readers can pore over the exceptionally gorgeous graphic mixture of collage, inking, and watercolor for hours.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Barry takes some drawing projects, with attribution, from Ivan Brunetti's text, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. Found this interesting as Brunetti insists that the reader proceeds through his lessons precisely as instructed, in the order instructed. Lynda Barry has a far looser take on education, and improvises as she goes along.
I teach cartooning classes at a university and relate to Barry's frustration with digital devices in class. The hand, she points out, is the original digital device. She also pleads with her students to document the totality their life experience, not to dwell on the boring bits. I could also relate to that. Too many students do lovely drawings documenting themselves and friends watching and complaining about the banality of TV.
There are many things that will prove valuable to teachers here, like her blue pencil project, and Barry's imaginative way of taking roll. Anyone teaching cartooning, writing, or creativity in general, will find this of interest.
When I opened Syllabus, at first I felt overwhelmed by the density of content on each page. That quickly shifted to amazement at how organized and simple the actual presentation is. Then it shifted again to enormous gratitude for someone who could compile this sort of support within the pages of a book. Such clear instruction. Presented in such a welcoming way. It's really hard to explain. Leave it to say: I have already gifted it to two of my pals and I am methodically moving through her syllabus and feeling lighter and more accepting of my scribbles everyday.