Dialogue worth reading

Last year my sister gave me a book written by Lynda Barry called What It Is. If you’re a writer, or an artist working in any form, I highly recommend this book. It’s dense and intense but Barry has a handle on some pretty common issues artists face (and people generally). She’s an illustrator who teaches art, but this book is directed at writers. She’s a great writer, too.

The reason I’m mentioning it here is that there’s this one sequence of dialogue in the early part of the book that I keep thinking about. Barry’s describing a conversation with her husband. It’s set in a comic strip of the two of them. Here’s how it goes:

He says: “what's wrong, Hon?”

She responds, “Nothing. Moody.”

(and it goes on back and forth)


“how come?”

“don’t know”

“wanna walk in the grove?”

“yeah…but no”

“which means?”

“I don’t know”

“C’mon. Just walk”

“I don’t even know what’s bugging me”

“Worried about your book?”


(and this is the part that got me):


She says, “Oh, there’s my book, the war, the laundry, things I said 15 years ago, the environment, my double chin, unanswered mail, what an ass I am, what a dirty house we have - - and I’ve had “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road” playing in my head for days.”


Her answer about what’s bugging her sounds so much like what’s going on in my own head that I could laugh and cry at the same time. “Things I said 15 years ago” is the line that nailed me. I’ve blurted out a lot of things over the years hoping to be funny or smart-sounding then felt like a fool afterwards. I wonder if I should apologize to anyone, or if apologizing stirs things up again and reminds people of dumb things I’ve said that they’ve happily forgotten.

Reading Barry’s insecurities reminded me that I’m not perfect in all kinds of ways – that I’ve been growing up and will continue to be growing up for the rest of my life.

excerpts from Lynda Barry's What It Is ©Lynda Barry, 2008