Gloeckner. Phoebe. A Child’s Life and Other Stories. Berkeley: Frog, ltd., 2000.
Nothing could have prepared me for Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe something along the lines of Robert Louis Stevenson or Kate Greenaway. Something really benign and cute, perhaps. I was prepared to be bored. but sweetly so.
Not so. To put it bluntly, A Child’s Life is a visual assault that needs to happen. When there are news reports of sexual abuse, rape, incest, drugs either on television or the radio we viewers are shielded from what that really means. We allow our imaginations to blunt the sharp edges of reality. We cringe, but we don’t go there with the truth. Gloeckner doesn’t allow for this numbing of truth. With Gloeckner you don’t have permission to soften this horrific reality. As a graphic novel the pictures tell the stories of an abused childhood better than any words in a novel. In a word, it was painful. When I finished I had words of my own; words like harsh, gritty, shocking, tragic yet truthful rang in my ears.
Author Fact: If you pick up the 1583940286 version of A Child’s Life you will find hints that this is semi-autobiographical. Gloeckner denies it.
Book Trivia: In addition to being called semi-autobiographical, A Child’s Life was also once called “a how-to for pedophiles.”
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Graphic Novels” (p 103).
Kirby, David. “Strip Poker.” The House of Blue Light. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. pp 3-5.
“Strip Poker” is a story wrapped in a memory. Kirby is donating blood when a picture of Ava Gardiner revives a lost memory. He remembers asking his mother if he would like to play strip poker. He is only eight and yet he knows that the strategy is to begin the game wearing as many articles of clothing possible. He can picture the different layers his mother would don. When she replies, “no, thank you, darling” he is struck by how there was no explanation for this declination. Nothing that would explain what was so wrong with his request. This leads to thoughts of other misrepresentations of the truth, each thought bouncing off another and another until Kirby is brought back to reality by the nurse taking his blood donation. She asks if he is a runner because his pulse is slow.
I liked this poem (the very first one in House of Blue Light because of the train of thoughts Kirby has while donating blood. It reminds me of my meandering ponderings and how when my husband asked what I am thinking about, before I can answer him, I have to ask “Do you want the whole train or just the caboose?”
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Kitchen Sink Poetry” (p 138).