Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Some days, I just want to read something light and funny, and I don't really worry about whether there will be anything meaningful to say here about that book.

Right now, for example. Yesterday I read Big Mushy Happy Lump, the second collection of the  "Sarah's Scribbles" strip - which has appeared online for close to a decade, though I don't think it's ever been entirely regular like a newspaper-style strip - by Sarah Andersen. The book itself came out in 2017; she's had two more collections of the strip since then.

I've seen Andersen's cartoons, here and then, but you can tell from my vagueness that I'm not really sure where and how she posts new strips - Instagram? multiple social services? originally some blog-like site but now something run by the Andrews McMeel juggernaut? - and that I am not a regular reader of her stuff. 

I like comics collected into books; what can I say. I read a bunch of daily comics in various formats, but I also like just dropping into a big bunch of new-to-me material by one person.

I did read the first collection, Adulthood Is a Myth, a couple of months ago, and liked it a lot. This post is the result: when you read something you like, in a reasonably well-organized world, you can then go back and read more by that person and also like that other thing.

BMHL is mostly more comics, each laid out on one or two pages (mostly one), often around the same cluster of concerns and issues as the first book: Andersen is small, often cold, more than a little neurotic, introverted, goofy, and the kind of young that means "still figuring out how to be me and an adult at the same time." This book also sees a bunch of gender-related cartoons; Andersen draws her uterus as a - fairly nasty, I must admit - character in several strips, and there's also some modern, mildly feminist takes on women's lives. It's all presented as jokes, of course, so people worried about getting "woke cooties" on themselves can probably still read it. (But fuck those guys, anyway.)

There's also a section of somewhat Allie Brosh-esque pieces at the end - slightly longer, a bit more introspective, but still mostly goofy and light-hearted. Andersen clearly thinks she's got problems, and would probably say everyone does, but she's not either doing a poor-me act or anatomizing the details of how she thinks like Brosh does. Still, it's good to see gags and longer pieces that don't just aim at that vague "universality" - Andersen is a specific person, a woman in particular, of a specific age in a particular time and place, and her humor comes from that, not from trying to do "wow! boyfriends are strong to open jars but also clueless about birthdays! Amirite!" generic humor.

And, most importantly: this stuff is all pretty funny. Andersen draws herself really well for her style of humor - even before this book, the cartoon Andersen was clearly a "big mushy happy lump." So: specific, funny, light without being flyaway. This is good stuff by a very talented creator who I hope can keep doing interesting comics for fifty more years.

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