NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL: Lynda Barry on the 20 Stages of Reading

THERE MAY WELL BE no artist more qualified to illuminate the life “stages” of readership than Lynda Barry.

As a cartoonist, of course, Barry created the alt-weekly strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek” for nearly 30 years, before ending the feature in 2008. And more recently, she has largely turned her attention to teaching, offering dozens of college-level classes (see: this inspiring course description) that plumb such fascinating areas as the biological function of creativity and the ability of picture-making to help stoke the imagination.

Fortunately for attendees of the National Book Festival (this weekend on the Mall), Barry will come to speak Sunday as she spreads word of her new book, “The Freddie Stories.” (Drawn + Quarterly). And fortunately for readers of The Washington Post, Barry agreed to create an original comic for our special National Book Festival section.

The wonderful result, titled “On Beyond Literature,” illustrates 20 stages of reading, from “First Book” through to “Denouement” — a life path also marked by such milestones as “First Adult Book With Parts Underlined” and “First Book You Lied About Liking in Order to Seem Cool.” (The print comic also shows what we can interpret to be Barry herself, from girlhood to now — twin images bookending a Tolkien passage that begins: “Still round the corner there may wait / A new road or a secret gate ...”)

So here, without further ado, is “On Beyond Literature,” in photo-gallery form. Happy reading.

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View Photo Gallery: If there are stages of grief and steps to recovery, isn’t the act of reading a complicated, evolving thing over time? Cartoonist Lynda Barry, one of scores of writers at the National Book Festival on Sept. 21-22, certainly thinks so. (Related: 12 authors, 12 reasons why they write)

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Lynda Barry will appear at the National Book Festival on Sunday, Sept. 22 (presentation at noon, signing at 1 p.m.) to support her latest book, “The Freddie Stories.”


(Drawn and Quarterly)

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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