Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novelby Jules Feiffer
A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2014
When three daunting dolls intersect with one hapless heroine and a hard-boiled private eye, deception, betrayal, and murder stalk every mean street in…Kill My Mother.Adding to a legendary career that includes a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement
A Vanity Fair Best Book of 2014
A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2014
When three daunting dolls intersect with one hapless heroine and a hard-boiled private eye, deception, betrayal, and murder stalk every mean street in…Kill My Mother.Adding to a legendary career that includes a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America, Jules Feiffer now presents his first noir graphic novel. Kill My Mother is a loving homage to the pulp-inspired films and comic strips of his youth. Channeling Eisner's The Spirit, along with the likes of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, John Huston, and Billy Wilder, and spiced with the deft humor for which Feiffer is renowned, Kill My Mother centers on five formidable women from two unrelated families, linked fatefully and fatally by a has-been, hard-drinking private detective.As our story begins, we meet Annie Hannigan, an out-of-control teenager, jitterbugging in the 1930s. Annie dreams of offing her mother, Elsie, whom she blames for abandoning her for a job soon after her husband, a cop, is shot and killed. Now, employed by her husband’s best friendan over-the-hill and perpetually soused private eyeElsie finds herself covering up his missteps as she is drawn into a case of a mysterious client, who leads her into a decade-long drama of deception and dual identities sprawling from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the jungles of the South Pacific.Along with three femme fatales, an obsessed daughter, and a loner heroine, Kill My Mother features a fighter turned tap dancer, a small-time thug who dreams of being a hit man, a name-dropping cab driver, a communist liquorstore owner, and a hunky movie star with a mind-boggling secret. Culminating in a U.S.O. tour on a war-torn Pacific island, this disparate band of old enemies congregate to settle scores.In a drawing style derived from Steve Canyon and The Spirit, Feiffer combines his long-honed skills as cartoonist, playwright, and screenwriter to draw us into this seductively menacing world where streets are black with soot and rain, and base motives and betrayal are served on the rocks in bars unsafe to enter. Bluesy, fast-moving, and funny, Kill My Mother is a trip to Hammett-Chandler-Cain Land: a noir-graphic novellike the movies they don’t make anymore.
It’s not often that a graphic novel generates the kind of prepublication attention that this rare graphic novel effort by the multitalented, Pulitzer Prize–winning Feiffer has generated, but this is no ordinary graphic novel. Intertwining the lives of five well-rounded female characters in an exceptionally complex narrative, the novel takes us through the Depression and war years at a pace that is positively frenetic. With hidden secrets, dual identities, mystery, and murder, Feiffer creates a fusion of genres that reads like a film noir written by a dramatist or a cartoonist’s version of a pulp detective story done as a stage play—all mediums that the author has triumphed in. Feiffer’s consummate cartooning skills are everywhere in evidence here, but most impressive is the way he shifts the reader’s viewpoint with panels that go from Toulouse-Lautrec to Pollock, all in a moment. His canvas gives each of the characters an altogether different dimension: a kind of visceral immediacy that projects every emotion with stunning impact. The result is an achievement of tremendous breadth and scope. (Aug.)
Award-winning cartoonist/illustrator/author/playwright Feiffer (Backing into Forward, 2010, etc.) delivers his first graphic novel, a sprawling, kinetic noir of giant women, jumbled identities and warped relations. Annie Hannigan hates her mother. The resentment—and teenage Annie's incessant acting up—stems from her sense that mom Elsie has abandoned her since the murder of Annie's father, an honest cop who ran afoul of the mob during Prohibition. Lately Elsie has been busy working as the secretary of alcoholic, abrasive private eye Neil Hammond, an associate of her late husband's who promised to solve the murder, though he's made little progress for two years. When a towering, classy blonde steps into Hammond's office and hires him to track down an equally tall, equally blonde woman, it sets off a series of events that will pepper the subsequent decade with bullets, beatings and betrayals. Mixed in is a prizefighter who is light on his feet but down in the mouth; Annie's milquetoast partner in crime who comes into his own while serving in WWII's Pacific theater; fleshy scandals of golden-age Hollywood; a mysterious bat-wielding giant of a woman who communicates only through song; and Feiffer's twistedly comic take on humanity. Things come to a head during a USO show in the jungles of Tarawa, where parties bristle with cross-purposes and secret agendas until gunfire lays the truth bare. The story is wickedly imagined and deftly plotted, drawing on numerous classic noir influences while including charmingly unique flourishes like Elsie thwarting a pack of street toughs (one of whom wears a crown à la Jughead) after appropriating a pistol from a disagreeable communist liquor-store clerk. Feiffer's illustrations have a rough-hewn quality, with the jumbled lines of his figures and faces clumping evocatively like Giacometti sculptures, while his human forms move with the fluidity of Degas' horses across open panels of dancing and boxing. The entire work feels pulled from an earlier time yet explosively modern, a madcap relic animated by an outrageous mind. An unusual, unforgettable, incomparable pulpy punch.
Kill whose mother? Feiffer's second venture into creating a novel in comic strip form (after 1979's Tantrum) turns out to be a masterpiece of misdirection. Bitchy teen Annie Hannigan declares she wants to murder her mom, Elsie, assistant to a booze-soaked private eye. But as bodies fall dead and backstories come out of the closet, the network of vindictiveness among a broader and very quirky bunch of characters becomes clearer. This is noir tragicomedy in the grand manner, with a twisty plot confounding expectations most delightfully. Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, and Obie-winning Feiffer draws on his stellar skills with dialog (including songs), plot, and wicked humor. The art, which includes numerous wonderful dance sequences, continues in his tradition of loose black-and-white scrawls, yet adds delicate color wash to superb effect. VERDICT Feiffer (A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears) has turned out an exceptional story featuring five formidable women, upending the cliché in which the he-man Humphrey Bogart or James Bond gets top billing. This will pull in fans of Feiffer, murder-mystery buffs, and those who like reading about fetching, Forties-era femmes with fatal intent. It's suitable for readers high school and up owing to occasional nudity and sexual innuendo plus violence. [See Prepub Alert, 2/3/14.]—M.C.
- Liveright Publishing Corporation
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.60(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.90(d)
- Age Range:
- 16 - 18 Years
Meet the Author
Jules Feiffer is a cartoonist, playwright, screenwriter, children's book author and illustrator, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches a humor-writing class at Stony Brook Southampton College and lives in East Hampton, New York.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 26, 1929
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- The Pratt Institute, 1951
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With graphic novels I kinda know from the first pages whether I'm gonna like it or not. The plots and twists might be great, but if I don't like the artwork, it'll be harder to really get into the story itself. I'm quite black and white when it come to these matters - with a few exceptions, when I go numb. With Kill my Mother, I hardly had time to pay any attention to any of this - in fact it was quite a delight to catch myself watching a movie instead. Stronger even, Feiffer managed to make me part of one! And not just any! Film noir told in a graphic novel. Impressive!