Saturday, April 11, 2015
That said, Kill My Mother is a fun genre exercise, full of greys and browns both literally and metaphorically. Like so many Feiffer works over the past five decades, it's about deeply neurotic people, their complicated relationships, and the unreasoning demands they have for themselves and each other. Feiffer does not usually traffic in heroes, and he certainly doesn't here: every character is damaged in at least one way, and many of them spend the entire book trying their hardest to damage each other in turn.
It opens in 1933, with one half of a story that will conclude ten years later. It's about Hollywood and secrets, about mothers and daughters and sisters, about the kind of hatred you can only have for someone you know really well and has always tried to do right by you. There are a few men in it, but the women are the core of the story: the men are there to be manipulated or fought over or used as bargaining chips. Or perhaps I shouldn't say "women"-- Feiffer is channeling the stories of the time, and most of his characters are better described as dames: tough, demanding, ballsy, capable, vicious.
Feiffer draws it very darkly, with a changing palette of grey washes behind and around his mostly tall and lanky characters -- they're all elbows and knees and long limbs and longer torsos and awkwardly taking up space like his famous dancer -- and some readers may find it difficult to be sure who is who at all times, if they can remember who is who after all of the reversals and revelations. Perhaps Kill My Mother is a book best read twice or more, to get the full effect. It definitely is full of energy and dialogue and vivid characters and dramatic situations, but each reader will have to pull those pieces together in the reading and decide if they form a coherent, satisfying whole.