Thursday, March 17, 2022

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelves by Grant Snider

Grant Snider is one of those rarest of things: the orthodontist-slash-cartoonist. Oh, sure, as far as I can tell he's never cartooned about orthodontia, but we can live in hope.

But, seriously, he has been making comics online, as Incidental Comics, for several years now. His work is generally positive stuff, usually creativity-inspired or at least creativity-adjacent, about books and ideas and doing good work and stuff like that. He's made at least one picture book, and there have been a couple of collections of his comics published.

This is one of them: I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf. The title is more judgmental and in-your-face than is really borne out by Snider's actual cartooning: his work presents him more as a person who will be fascinated by the things he learns, or assumes, about you from the books on your shelves.

And the focus is on "I," rather than "your bookshelves." Snider has a parade of author-stand-in characters in the comics here, of different ages and genders and races, but they're all the same essential person: bookish, positive, hardworking by preference but dreamy in practice, deeply in love with writing and stories, a writer as much as a reader.

Snider starts off with a page of things "I Confess," which turns out to be a hidden Table of Contents - each of those confessions turns into a half-title later, with a section of comics about that concern. I think most of the comics here originally appeared elsewhere - there's at least one obvious library poster, a lot of stuff from Incidental, and the copyright page lists a lot of other initial publications.

Snider's art is cozy and colorful: to my eye, he's more influenced by R.O. Blechman than anyone else; he has a similar cast of rubber-hose-limbed, happy, cavorting characters. It's lovely and inviting and very well suited for the positivity and energy of his comics.

And these are positive, sometimes energetic comics about books: this is not the world of literary feuds and authors dropped by their publishers, of banned books and school visits gone wrong and libraries closed by budget cuts, of books left on trains to be lost forever or of books that never were or could be written. It's all happy, positive, book-stuff: not exactly the sort of thing that would be embroidered on a pillow with a pictures of a cat, to be sold in that quaint shop on the main road in the nearest tourist-trap town, but not far away from that end of the literary world. If you like books that way, Snider will be a great guide.

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