cover image Everything is Flammable

Everything is Flammable

Gabrielle Bell. Uncivilized, $25.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-94125-018-1

Everything about the newest collection of diaristic ephemera and agitations from Bell (The Voyeurs) would point to another twee, myopic graphic memoir about nothing much in particular. Fortunately, Bell takes her boiling stew pot of anxiety and turns it into something far broader and more empathetic. The linked stories begin with a mix of events that involve Bell’s worries about work and her garden (a love that turns into a source of anxiety). After Bell’s mother, a hippie-ish sort who lives rough in distant northern California, loses her home in a fire, Bell flies out to visit—ostensibly to help, but also, she admits, because she’d like to be seen as a hero and the trip could provide good comics fodder. Bell’s vignettes peel back the layers of the mother-daughter relationship with self-deprecating comedy, displaying irritation but also patient forbearance. In one of the book’s more exceptional moments, Bell notes the wide range of types of mothers seen in movies, and points out that hers “exists outside of that continuum,” adding, “Yours does, too.” (Apr.)