Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso

The Squirrel Mother collects Kelso's short comics stories from the early years of this decade; Fantagraphics published it in 2006. Some of them have aspects that may be autobiographical, but Kelso in general seems more like a literary short-story writer, polishing small moments and short sequences into fiction.

Kelso works to a small page-size, with two or three tiers of smallish panels. Each story begins on a right-hand page, and there generally are four blank pages -- two to end the previous story, two to begin the new one -- in between each of the stories. So, even though Squirrel Mother is about a hundred and fifty pages long, it feels like only about half of the page-space actually has any comics on it; these stories are framed very carefully with tinted backgrounds and each set out like a sandwich on a plate.

The stories themselves are mostly elliptical, telling small vignettes from a life or from history but clearly meant to resonate far beyond that. They're not related to each other in any real way; this is just a collection of independent works. And Kelso is quite talented, but, from these stories, it looks likes she's been working entirely as a miniaturist. It might be nice to see her spread out some more.

(And I figured out why Kelso's style looked familiar -- I read her strip Watergate Sue in the New York Times Magazine last year.)

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