The girls who populate cartoonist Lynda Barrys work are scrubby, scraggly-haired, befreckled, and awkward. Barry's most famous creation, Marlys, has a curt line of a mouth punctuated with buck teeth, just below a bespectacled deadpan stare above which girly pigtails are held in place by little bows. Her visage is like a totem pole of feminine expectations that ends with stubborn rebuttal. Yet Marlys is cute, and so are the other children in Lynda Barrys comic strips and graphic novels: They dance and jump rope, their limbs are devoid of bones and thus waggle around in celebratory childish glee, but they also make stark observations about race, child abuse, drug use, and myriad other problems readers may wish were confined to the adult world. Barrys latest offering is a sprawling multicolored mishmash of collage and painting that looks like a shrine to the creative process and the difficulties that accompany it called What It Is. Do you wish you could write? Barry asks her readers right on the cover. But in her careful hands the question isnt mocking -- its honest. Do you wish you could write? Maybe you can.
Thu., Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m., 2008