Psychiatric Tales by Daryl Cunningham

Decided to go back and read more graphic novels, so I got this one out of the library. It was drawn and written by a guy who spent years working in a psych ward. He wrote eleven short tales about various ailments that he encountered.

The artwork was excellent. Dark and moody and spare, it’s not only the kind of clean-line artwork that I like best in graphic novels, it also perfect fit the subject matter.

The story itself was not as good. The problem was that there wasn’t really any story in most of them. The characters were ill. The narrator described their illness. And then their illness progressed. There was no sense of revelation in the stories. It was all: “This is how the world is.”

EXCEPT for the final story, which was great. It was the main character’s own story. He tells how this graphic novel took years upon years to write because he had a breakdown halfway through and had to drop out of nurse’s training. He describes how he’d always been a high-strung and anxious person, but he thought his passion for psychiatric care would be enough to get him through the rigors of his program of study. But it wasn’t. And then he dropped out and felt even more anxious and isolated. And it was only in cartooning and in drawing these stories, that he finally managed to get back a little bit of equilibrium.

One wishes that he’d engaged in a little more fictionalization and had woven his own story through the other tales in a more coherent narrative, but whatevs, nothing is perfect.

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