Friday, January 06, 2006

Now It Can Be Read: Life's A Bitch review

I originally wrote this review for our paper's books page. Upon further reflection I realized that fequent use of the word "bitch" in a family newspaper probably wasn't a very good idea. My editor did little to dissuade me from that notion. On the Internet, of course, you can swear as much as you like!

"Life’s A Bitch"
by Roberta Gregory
Fantagraphics, 272 pages, $16.95.

Madge, aka Bitchy Bitch (yes, that’s really what she’s called), has got to be one of the greatest comic (by which I mean humorous) characters of the past 20 years or so. Perpetually ticked off, deeply lustful, plagued by every sort of "female problem" you could name, and filled with dark thoughts, Bitchy no doubt strikes an inner chord for a lot of modern women.

Gregory is certainly not afraid to put Bitchey through the paces and this volume of stories from the recently-concluded "Naughty Bits" series finds the character dealing with jerks at work in adulthood, unwanted pregnancy in her teens and sexual abuse in her childhood. That much of this material can even be remotely funny as well as touching goes a long way toward what an inspired character Bitchy is and how deft Gregory is in handling her.

Where the book falls apart, unfortunately, is in the rest of the cast. Every other person in Bitchy’s life tends to be some sort of broad and rather flat stereotype (Bitchy’s parents in particular seem to suffer in this regard). Had Gregory added more nuance to the rest of her cast, these stories would be inspired instead of merely decent.


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