Skip to main content

REVIEW: Syllabus

Although this book appears at first to be a straightforward memoir, Lynda Barry has given us an inspiring inquiry into the nature of creativity and a practical introduction to comics-making.

Lynda Barry
Drawn and Quarterly, 2014
publisher site | WorldCat

Syllabus takes the form of a composition notebook that's become a home for journal entries, collage, sketches, and comics, and its contents revolve around Barry's experiences teaching several interdisciplinary courses at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The structure might take a some getting used to, but these course notes, exercise instructions, and reflections on learning and art make it absolutely worth the effort. The book's "lessons" are accessible in that they have a careful simplicity to them, but by requiring honest reflection while drawing from memory something as mundane as a car, they become truly profound as well.

As someone who doesn't make comics, I know I'm only absorbing some of what Syllabus has to offer, yet even with that constraint in place I was affected by what Barry gives us and, at the risk of getting mushy, shows us what we had inside all along. (You're going to have to trust me when I say it's a big deal that this book inspired me to doodle again!) Librarians in any context owe it to themselves and their patrons to read this unusual book, let it remind you why the medium is such an important tool for self-expression, and pour your renewed enthusiasm into programs, collections, outreach, education, advocacy, and all your other comics librarianship pursuits.