Sunday, May 25, 2014

Over Easy

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and even though I was not around when much of the book takes place, Over Easy really brought me back to my restaurant roots. Although it is a fictionalized autobiography, so much of it is based on real events that it features a great sense of verisimilitude. Set in Oakland in the 1970s, the narrative follows Margaret, a recent art school graduate in her 20s as she finds her way in the world. Low on funds and prospects, she finds herself frequenting diners and drawing in her sketchbook.
Margaret ends up with a job in the restaurant, working first as a dishwasher and then moving to the front of the house as a waitress. What really stood out to me was the realism and vitality of the characters and situations. The tumultuous relationships between cooks and waitresses, the vulgar banter, the periodic romantic dalliances, the annoying customers, and the regulars with their unique personalities all combine to create a community, which is lovingly and intricately captured here.
But this book is not just a version of Kitchen Confidential, it is also a time capsule for the period, a look at a time of cultural transformation. I appreciate the blast from the past, but I also see a vibrant cast of characters in almost soap operatic situations. Over Easy is a wonderful concoction of history, high and low culture, and a coming-of-age tale all told in masterful and expressive drawings and monochromatic watercolors. The flourishes of creativity and energy in the artwork complement the narrative expertly.

The creator of this book is Mimi Pond, a writer and artist with multiple magazine credits and also a writer for TV shows like Designing Women, Pee Wee's Playhouse, and The Simpsons (the very first full episode). You can read more about her in this profile at the LA Times. She reveals more about this book and her career in this interview with Publishers Weekly. Or if you prefer to listen to a podcast interview, there is this one from Virtual Memories.

Reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Los Angeles Review of Books' MariNaomi found much to relate to. Shathley Q summed up that this book "simply comes with the highest praise, and quite simply, deserves to be read." Jeff Provine commented that Pond depicted "life in the restaurant realistically yet magically." NPR's Etelka Lehoczky called this book "a sweet tribute."

A preview and more are available here from Over Easy's publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

No comments:

Post a Comment