Published on November 4th, 2014 | by Anya Ulinich0
Anya Ulinich’s THE INTELLECTUAL AND THE DARLING: A PLAY FOR CHILDREN ABOUT GENDER ROLES, excerpted from LENA FINKLE’S MAGIC BARREL
Anya Ulinich’s Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel is an autobiographical graphic novel. Lena shares a striking physical similarity to her author, and they are both immigrant mothers in Brooklyn, reinventing themselves after divorce, rewriting their own stories. Lena is a wandering, witty tale about dating and sex and heartbreak, and how our childhood culture permeates and perverts what we look for in love.
Lena’s motherhood of preteen daughters is dailiness; the drama of her life is the clashing of new and old romance. Her daughter quietly coaxes her out of depression after a break-up, or advises her on dressing for a blind date. Lena’s frank admission of making motherhood her less primary identity, like her delight in taking the kids’ school hours to meet her lover in an abandoned loft, feels shocking in our current culture of mommy-above-all. But, as L Magazine writes, “it’s not because she’s a narcissist or because she neglects her children, rather it’s because she’s an adult woman who can do and be more than one thing at a time. Lena Finkle can be a good mom and be someone who has sex with a slightly creepy guy she meets on OKCupid. Lena Finkle can be a good mom and have Skype-sex with her married, still-in-Russia high school boyfriend. Lena Finkle can be a good mom and make tons of mistakes and tons of good decisions because that is what all women can do, even if it doesn’t get written about that often, if at all.”
Ulinich had never drawn a story in pictures before she dove into a full graphic novel. Ambitious, to say the least. She experiments with style across the book, moving between a chronological narrative of Lena in present-day, painterly portraits, to short cartoony strips about her upbringing–which were really my favorite parts of the book. This comic excerpt opens with Lena making soup for her new boyfriend, the “orphan.” He’s an eccentric recluse and–well, really have to read the book, no spoilers here would do this guy justice. Do pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore–or comics shop!–and let us know what you think in the comments.