Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Over Easy," by Mimi Pond

I have written about a few graphic books (novels and memoirs) I have read (e.g., 7/26/11, 1/23/12, and 2/1/12), and I am increasingly interested in the creativity shown by the authors/artists of contemporary graphic books. The latest one I have read is “Over Easy” (Drawn and Quarterly, 2014), by Mimi Pond. It is the author’s memoir of taking time off during her art school days to earn money as first a dishwasher and then a waitress in The Imperial Café in Oakland, California. One appeal of the book, for me, was its Oakland setting, just across the Bay from San Francisco; the book captures some of the gritty, original, hipsterish/punkish, sometimes exciting and sometimes dreary feel of the part of Oakland where the café is located. There is not a lot of plot in this book, but there are terrific, entertaining, moving, funny portrayals of the cast of characters at the restaurant, mostly those who work there but also some of the customers and friends who come in to eat, talk, drink, sell and use recreational drugs, start sexual and/or romantic relationships, and more. The narrator portrays herself as somewhat plain and naïve, yet eager for experience; she soaks up all the drama around her, and soon is participating in that drama as well. The drawings are wonderful, especially the facial expressions of the characters. The dialogue is entertaining and sometimes revealing. The drawings are all in black, white, and a kind of muted green, which subtly affects the reader’s perceptions. This book is clever, observant, and humane in a mostly non-sentimental but very approachable way.

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