cover image We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe

We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe

Merrill Markoe. Algonquin, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61620-903-2

Comedian Markoe (What the Dogs Have Taught Me) spins a spiky coming-of-age memoir combining commentary, comics, and diary excerpts in a scrapbook fashion. Markoe’s girlhood journal begins in 1958 when her bankrupted father moves the family to Miami. Watching too much TV and striking out with boys because “I was getting all my romantic advice from Mad magazine,” Merrill cultivates the snarky sense of humor crucial to her future career. The family moves to California for her teenage years, and she plunges into 1960s counterculture: discovering art, reading Kerouac and Sartre, and crushing on John Lennon while fantasizing that he would agree with her that sex sounds boring. Throughout, the adult Markoe meditates on the mechanics of memory and talks to her younger selves, wondering if “the original-recipe version of me in grade school would remind me of the geezer version.” Markoe’s wit is hampered by her uneven, ugly-cute drawings. They have the sardonic edge of alternative cartoonists like MK Reed, but Markoe has trouble assembling them into layouts, as images fight text for page space and word balloons sprout awkwardly. Even so, Markoe’s knack for anecdotes and perfect turns of phrase (“My dad thought having a personality was an optional feature”) is worth the price of admission. Fans of Roz Chast and Mimi Pond will want to take a look. [em](Oct.) [/em]