My War with Brian

Ted Rall, Author Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing $8.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-56163-215-2
This morbidly fascinating memoir-in-comics is one of the more frightening recollections of childhood bullying you're likely ever ever read. Rall grew up in the 1970s in Kettering, Ohio (""suburb of the damned""), a town of stunning homogeneity that concealed an undercurrent of absurd intolerance. An intelligent, ""brown-haired, brown-eyed freak"" with divorced parents and a French mother, Rall was routinely vilified by his unambitious, intellectual-hating classmates and relentlessly beaten and harassed by Brian, a strange and brutal kid he first encountered in junior high. Brian made Rall's life miserable for no discernible reason other than Rall's superficial social difference. Smaller than Brian and fearful of him, Rall was nevertheless equally cruel, devising indirect but gruesomely violent counterattacks. Rall's mother was powerless to stop these daily clashes, school officials were weirdly indifferent and the strange, primal conflict continued into high school. Puberty miraculously added eight inches and 12 pounds to Rall's frame, and he finally beat Brian into a bloody, senseless heap in the school hallway. Presented in Rall's angularly comic b&w drawings, the story alternates between a quirky poignancy and a thoughtful but bleak humor. With irony and introspection, Rall examines the effects of this bizarre experience on his development. He still often dreams of killing Brian but admits that ""Brian made me stronger, but he also made me meaner, less trusting, hateful of hypermasculine men.... without him I might never have drawn cartoons, escaped Ohio or gotten laid."" (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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