I first discovered Lynda Barry in some doomed offshoot of Ms. magazine for young women and can safely say I've been a fan ever since. Here was a hilarious cartoonist based in Seattle, who seemed like a cross between Cyndi Lauper and Charles Schultz, with big white earrings, a wad of gum and a poodle named Bob. I devoured her books, Boys + Girls, Everything in the World, Big Ideas. I loved her crude draftsmanship -- her banana mouths, button eyes and razor-sharp angles -- and the way her strips seemed firmly rooted in some perpetual 1980s nightclub. But most of all, I loved her ability to encapsulate things with the tiniest of details, inscribing "Capricorn: I Worry" on a cigarette lighter or wooing a man by listening to ABBA's "Fernando."
In the 1990s, the wit and poignancy she brought to her earlier works lent themselves well to Come Over, Come Over, Down the Street, The Freddie Stories and The! Greatest! Of! Marlys! As seen through the eyes of a handful of kids -- Maybonne, Freddie, Arna and Marlys -- Barry evoked the furtive disappointments and quick sharp joys of adolescence with an accuracy few past the age of 20 have achieved. And Cruddy, a dark, disturbing carnival ride of a novel, was acclaimed by fans and critics alike, even old fans like myself who missed Barry's early ebullience.
In One Hundred Demons, all those sides of Barry combine and intermingle. Her first book in color, Demons originally appeared as biweekly feature for Salon.com and is what Barry calls "autobifictionalography." Set apart by lovingly crafted collages of origami, glitter, ric-rac and paint, Barry's little vignettes travel back and forth between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. She describes her first job, working for two hippies she calls "Rippy" and "Scammy," and makes parallels between her first crush's obsession with lice and her "worst boyfriend" (Ira Glass, if all the buzz on the Web is true). In true Lynda Barry fashion, moments of profound hilarity give way to a sort of haunting gut-punch of recognition, particularly in "Cicadas" and "Resilience."
There are moments of sweetness, too, in how she finally reclaims the fun of "girliness" as a middle-aged woman and is soothed on that fateful Election Night by her kind, bearded husband. There's even a wonderful Chinese brush painting lesson in the back and the encouragement to the reader to craft your own demons. My only criticism of the book is a selfish one, that there are not 100 demons, each four pages long, contained inside.