How to ‘Barry’ Your Demons

Lynda Barry graduated in 1979 from the Evergreen State College, where Matt Groening (The Simpsons) previously published her comics during his term as Editor-in-Chief at the Cooper Point Journal. From the 1980s to present, Barry’s plays, novels, and cartoons have earned her

and her alma mater considerable notoriety. Barry’s new graphic novel, “One Hundred Demons,” is an illustrated collection of the author’s personal challenges, fears, and embarrassments. Barry calls her method of mixing reality with generous creative license “autobifictionalography.”

Taking inspiration from 16th century Zen literature, Barry tells stories from her life in ink and sumi brush. Her memories and confessions play out in anecdotes from childhood and adolescence. Each chapter declares its subject with names like, “Dancing,” “Hate,” and “My First Job.”[pullquote_right]

Barry calls her method of
mixing reality with generous
creative license autobifictionalography.


These “demons” reach out into near-universal themes of rejection, self-discovery, generational dynamics, and cultural identity. Aside from its irresistibly collaged cover, the reader-friendlist aspects of “One Hundred Demons” lies in its readability from any point within its contents. You don’t have to experience the demons in order to experience the whole book. At the climax of “Lost Worlds,” Barry’s third demon, the narration transitions into a tone of abrupt clarity. A passage bordering re-creations of neighborhood kickball games reads, “The unforgettable becomes the forgotten…Some people say they can’t remember their childhoods at all. That

early morning when they waited for others, bouncing the ball and watching its shadow, is lost to them.” Unabashedly colorful scenes underlay dialogue that artfully ranges from too vivid for a ‘funnies’ strip, too funny for sad poetry, and too efficient for a short story. Panel by panel, Barry brings us into her reality while reminding us of everything that’s ever possessed us. This work places Lynda Barry amongst great creative autobiographers like M.F.K. Fisher, Jack Kerouac, and Marcel Proust.