Special Exits: My Parents—A Memoir

Joyce Farmer, Author
Joyce Farmer, Fantagraphics, $26.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-60699-381-1
Reviewed on: 08/16/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-1-60699-760-4
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Underground feminist comic artist Farmer’s account of how she looked after her aging parents is a quiet wonder. Lars and Rachel are long retired and don’t venture out much from their South Los Angeles home except to go to the grocery store. Lars reads the paper, and both eagerly look forward to visits from their daughter (named Laura but presumably Farmer’s stand-in) as much as they don’t want to trouble her. Over the course of years that cascade through Farmer’s closely detailed story, Lars and Rachel slowly become needier, but do their best to hide their decrepitude from Laura. As the years pass (the 1992 Rodney King riots threaten to make their existence even more perilous), Laura teases out small facts about her parents that she’d never known—the bags of uranium ore that Lars, an engineer, keeps in the garage, Rachel’s desperately poor Missouri childhood. Farmer renders everything in busy, densely packed black-and-white frames whose cluttered look mimics the dusty house, its surfaces thick with cat hair and memories. The story is stunning for its antisentimental realism, as well as for the glimpses of fantasy (Lars’s hallucination of Hades’ ferryman, Charon, rowing by in the hallway) that flicker by like ghosts. (Sept.)
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