I bought The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon a couple of months ago, and it went into the to-read pile, a stack that gets added to whenever I buy too many books at once. Most of the time those books end up staying there while I move on to new purchases- single purchases that I can read and move on from, with no feelings of guilt about the strays I brought home and am didn’t chose to read first. I picked it to read now because it’s premise seemed to fit in with my thought process of late- the intersection of fiction and reality.
The book is about the Mix family, a dysfunctional family made more wrong by the fact that they were famous for being the subject of The Family Funnies, a cloyingly sweet newspaper comic clearly similar to Family Circus. The father, and artist of the strip, has died, and the family which has spread as far apart as it can is forced to come back together. Tim, the narrator of the book, discovers that his inheritance is the comic strip and all revenue stemming from it- IF he is able to take over drawing it. In the process of learning how to do that, he learns more about his family members, and why his father chose to portray them as he did.
Pierce, the second to youngest child, is schizophrenic and dear, and never makes an appearance in the strips although he claims he is in every one. The realizing of the truth of that statement is the beginning of Tim’s ephiphany, and through the fiction that his father created he is able to see not only the truth about his father, but about himself and his past. It brings home again that we use fiction to create the world as we wish it to be, and that through fiction we are able to see truth- if not reality.
I got sucked up into this book more than I thought I would be, and I really love these characters, as bruised as they are. There’s a beauty and sweetness to them despite their dysfunction, and that is what their father saw and tried to capture in his perennially young subjects. Each strip was a love note to them, a testament to how he saw them, rather than just how he wished they were.
Before The Funnies I read Rap Factor by Delacorta for what has to be going on the 50th time. As far as I’m concerned, Delacorta can do no wrong.
Just Finished: The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon
Up Next: Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom
Do they show any of the comic strips in the book?
I appreciate anyone else who has a stack of unread books. As you know, I just went through a birthday and the stack of books I intend to read next is now over a foot high, and that doesn’t count stuff on the shelf still waiting. A lot of people don’t understand the compulsion (and, really, is there a more annoying question in the world than, “Have you read all of these?”). But there is something of a security in knowing that they are waiting for you, that tomorrow you can turn around and you’ve got your entertainment and there will be no problems in that area. And, sometimes you just stumble on a book that you must get now, and those often do get read right away.
There isn’t a single comic in the book, although there are descriptions of them. I’m guessing it’s because Family Funnies is so close to Family Circus that it would have been difficult to have someone draw them and have them be different enough. They’re pretty much the same- down to the angel grandparents, and the kids misunderstanding words and everything. I was dissapointed that there weren’t any, but I kind of understand.
What bugged me however, almost to the point of not reading the book, was the cover. It has what look like old famlily pictures that are cropped funny, and none of them look like any of the people in the book, and it just bugs me. They could have gone with art on the cover! Someone call in Chip Kidd!