JANET & ME: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss

Stan Mack, Author . Simon & Schuster $14 (176p) ISBN 978-0-684-87278-0

When cartoonist Mack decided to use a 1980 Greenwich Village bisexual conference as grist for his Village Voice comic strip, he never guessed the globe-trotting freelance writer he met there would become the love of his life. But Janet Bode's magnetism and trademark single earring soon had him under her sway and before he knew it, the two were sharing everything from travel adventures down to a single egg (he ate the white; she ate the yolk). Mack's tale of how his and Bode's easy companionship was derailed by Bode's breast cancer is unique for many reasons, but his improbably moving and downright funny illustrations drive this book right out of the crowded field of cancer memoirs. For instance, directly beneath his description of learning the initial diagnosis in a busy hospital corridor, Mack includes a sketch of the couple reeling in the wake of the rushed, insensitive surgeon. The flabbergasted looks on their faces speak volumes. Drawings of Mack and Bode's friends and caregivers appear alongside brackets containing each one's memories of the cancer's progression and how Bode coped with her increasingly bleak prognosis. This unusual technique gives everyone their own voice and, more importantly, it gives characters—especially Bode—a sense of life. Refreshingly, the dying patient never comes across as faultless; as one friend recalls, "My dear friend was dying and she was still giving me shit." Agent, David Black Literary Agency. (Oct. 1)

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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