Friday, June 30, 2017

You & A Bike & A Road

You & A Bike & A Road is a deceptively simple looking book that actually delves into multiple, complex areas of life. It is a travelogue of a bike trip planned from Arizona to Georgia. It is a portrait of a person dealing with the demands of life and dealing with depression. It is a commentary on the current state of immigration along the southern border of the US. It is an existential exploration of what it means to be a person on a journey. And it is also a portrayal of the interesting, generous, and memorable people she meets on her trip.

It is chock full of beautifully rendered, human moments. It is occasionally raw, profane, candid, and funny. It features many keen observations and commentary on ordinary matters that affect all of our lives. And it is about the truths that we tell others and the ones that we protect and keep to ourselves. Just check out this exchange:
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the book is its economy of linework and storytelling. The art is that best kind of scribbling, what seems like rough pencil lines that are actually very evocative and full of energy and import. And the story is full of small moments and observations that can easily be applied to larger life topics and situations. I rate this book  alongside some of the best ones I have read in recent times, like those by Jules Feiffer and Pénélope Bagieu. Even with a similarity in terms of the amount of craft and artistry put into it, this book is still in a category of its own.

Of late, I have been on a tear of books by this book's creator, Eleanor Davis. She has racked up quite a few accolades, including the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, and has created a number of books that can appeal to adults (How to Be Happy), younger readers (Stinky), and adolescents (The Secret Science Alliance). I have read a couple of very good interviews about her work on this book, and you can read them here and here.

All of the reviews I have read have been full of accolades. Sarah Miller wrote, "Even though You & A Bike & A Road is made up of moments that seem self-contained as we read them, Davis’s work—intentionally or unintentionally—comes together to form an overarching narrative that raises questions about identity as much as it comforts through its depiction of overcoming challenges." Oliver Sava praised her "phenomenal work capturing the sprawl of the Southern states, starting with the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico before moving into more fertile territory." Ally Russell called it "a remarkable achievement for both the cartoonist and the amateur cyclist behind it." And like Nicole Rudick wrote,  I am also "in awe of Eleanor Davis’s drawings."

You & A Bike & A Road was published by Koyama Press, and they have a preview and more about it here.

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