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Chlorine Gardens

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Keiler Roberts doesn’t do slice of life; she gives you the whole pie. Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts of Chlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the deft drollness in which she presents life’s darker moments. She doesn’t whistle past graveyards, but rather finds the punch line in the pi Keiler Roberts doesn’t do slice of life; she gives you the whole pie. Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts of Chlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the deft drollness in which she presents life’s darker moments. She doesn’t whistle past graveyards, but rather finds the punch line in the pitiful. KEILER ROBERTS is a Chicago-based artist whose autobiographical comic series Powdered Milk has received an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Series and was included in The Best American Comics 2016. Her first book with Koyama Press, Sunburning, was published in 2017.


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Keiler Roberts doesn’t do slice of life; she gives you the whole pie. Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts of Chlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the deft drollness in which she presents life’s darker moments. She doesn’t whistle past graveyards, but rather finds the punch line in the pi Keiler Roberts doesn’t do slice of life; she gives you the whole pie. Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts of Chlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the deft drollness in which she presents life’s darker moments. She doesn’t whistle past graveyards, but rather finds the punch line in the pitiful. KEILER ROBERTS is a Chicago-based artist whose autobiographical comic series Powdered Milk has received an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Series and was included in The Best American Comics 2016. Her first book with Koyama Press, Sunburning, was published in 2017.

30 review for Chlorine Gardens

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “If the Good Lord made me bipolar on purpose, it must be because he’s (she’s? they’re?) bipolar. That’s the only way to explain how consistently great and terrible His creations are. Now that I’ve figured that out, maybe I do believe in God. I can imagine creating cancer on my darkest day, and then the Grand Canyon to make up for it.” This is how it felt to see my copy of Chlorine Gardens in the mail: I recall the jittery excitement of getting those Scholastic Book orders in my elementary classro “If the Good Lord made me bipolar on purpose, it must be because he’s (she’s? they’re?) bipolar. That’s the only way to explain how consistently great and terrible His creations are. Now that I’ve figured that out, maybe I do believe in God. I can imagine creating cancer on my darkest day, and then the Grand Canyon to make up for it.” This is how it felt to see my copy of Chlorine Gardens in the mail: I recall the jittery excitement of getting those Scholastic Book orders in my elementary classrooms. We were pretty poor for a few years, as in actually getting socks and underwear for Christmas, the equivalent of coal, but my Mom would basically let my sister and I order all the Scholastic books we wanted. I would get my stack in Mrs. Kirchener's class, and instantly read as much as I was allowed, just consuming book after book as quickly as possible. So, when Chlorine Gardens came in the mail yesterday I was busy doing several Important Things, and in the rare position of actually helping kids with homework (not my usual job), and I ripped open the envelope, opened the book, and immediately read it through. Did nothing else. No interruptions. No, I do not know how to spell Tallahassee. No, I don’t have the time to read your revised ending to “The Lottery.” Yes, I will watch your funny bunny You Tube video compilations later. And yes, I already read an insane amount of books so there is no way to justify reading this and not making supper when I promised to. But this is the kind of Keiler Roberts fan I have been almost from the first. Well, at the very very first I had to figure out the tone, which is this deadpan humor, a touch of Stephen Wright, memoir comics about her family and health issues (we knew she was bipolar in previous work; in this book we also learn she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis). She’s not all manic Ellen Forney about her bipolar-ness (not that that is a bad thing, just making a distinction); she’s quietly funny in revealing herself. We don’t yet know what the ms means for her, though we learn as she learns and we see she choose to joke (in these comics, at least) at (possible) disaster. In the mean time, we have her dog Crooky to make fun of, and her goofy/adorable daughter Xia, and her solidly supportive husband Scott, and the rest of the fam. One of my top ten comics books of the year, one of my favorite books of the year. I smiled almost constantly, and several times laughed aloud, in spite of the fact that in it her grandfather dies, she gets ms, she continues being bipolar. Some favorite bits: *If you work in a Dairy Queen you associate chlorine (used to clean the floor) with ice cream *Her old white man ob/gyn who always tells jokes *Not recalling why you wrote notes to yourself to remember stuff; not being able to read them or remember why you wrote stuff down: “Did you write ‘training camels’ on my list?” *Chad, whose favorite food is leftovers *Doll-ear piercing *Her experiencing “too much self-esteem;" an example of which is putting in a story of how she was one of four valedictorians in her high school, and the smartest one, she says *Bar sign: This Thanksgiving, You Don’t Want To Be My Pants *Bad traveler reflections *In second grade, wanting to be a bunny feeder when she grew up * Xia’s store where everything is made out of her hair (good one, Xia!) *Recalling grandpa eating as a last memory :( I like the laughs ready to pounce in the midst of real challenges. Provides a model for us when it also hits the fan for us as it inevitably does/will. Hey! I am sitting by the mail slot waiting for the next book, Keiler! No pressure.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    Another wonderful series of autobiography or diary comics from Keiler Roberts. I reread Sunburning and Miseryland in preparation for this -- and in prep for interview Keiler for the podcast -- and one of the things that struck me was the evolution of Roberts's writing and storytelling. Chlorine Gardens struck me as more consciously structured than her previous books. And she engages more in longer-form storytelling than she did in Sunburning, and especially more than in her early Powdered Milk c Another wonderful series of autobiography or diary comics from Keiler Roberts. I reread Sunburning and Miseryland in preparation for this -- and in prep for interview Keiler for the podcast -- and one of the things that struck me was the evolution of Roberts's writing and storytelling. Chlorine Gardens struck me as more consciously structured than her previous books. And she engages more in longer-form storytelling than she did in Sunburning, and especially more than in her early Powdered Milk comics.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

    Well, I don’t know what it says about me, but I just couldn’t relax and enjoy this one, even though a GR friend who writes amazing reviews and described this one really well sold it to me for the humour and the fact that Keiler Roberts downplays being bipolar and getting diagnosed with MS and other major and minor tragedies and highlighted the awesome deadpan comedy. What he did NOT mention is how terrible the drawings are. They look like the drawings of someone who could probably draw better if Well, I don’t know what it says about me, but I just couldn’t relax and enjoy this one, even though a GR friend who writes amazing reviews and described this one really well sold it to me for the humour and the fact that Keiler Roberts downplays being bipolar and getting diagnosed with MS and other major and minor tragedies and highlighted the awesome deadpan comedy. What he did NOT mention is how terrible the drawings are. They look like the drawings of someone who could probably draw better if they made an effort but doesn’t bother to, or someone who should just do stick figures instead. I’m a bad person for saying this, I know I am. But I just can’t help it if I have certain aesthetic sensibilities. I actually enjoyed Allie Brosh’s “Hyperbole and a Half” SO much more visually because she went with the really bad drawings as a visual style and made it work for her. But these just made me think of maybe when I was nine and trying to do something and just didn’t know how and it just bugged me like fuck and consequently, I wasn’t able to take my focus off the awfulness of the drawings and focus on what she was trying to convey BEYOND that. It’s just awful and sounds so superficial, I know; and added to that, one bipolar person who is doing fuckall with her talent (being me) criticizing another bipolar person who is actually being productive and publishing her work and being recognized for it (being Roberts). Sounds a lot like jealousy doesn’t it? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But I do know I get annoyed as fuck by bad drawings that look like the person didn’t even try and possibly isn’t able to do better because... MS. I get that’s not the point besides. That the message is the thing with GNs and that not every cartoonist is a master artist and that a lot(most?) readers don’t take notice of these things and are maybe even reassured to see the kinds of drawings that seem like they could do too if they made an effort. But I have a solid art background and eyes to see and they did not like what they saw. In fact I think my eyes bled a little. So there. I’m PMSing too, so especially intolerant to ugliness [and I should add, if it even needs saying, probably a bigger bitch than usual!] Sorry Keiler, keep on doing your thing since it’s obviously working for you. And sorry David, it just didn’t do it for me this time. Though the thing about “God must be bipolar” really is very good, and sure enough would explain a lot!

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.T.

    Keiler can make checking to see if her dog peed on the carpet and an MS diagnosis equally compelling, and somehow infuse both with equal humor. I say this in every review of her books, but she really is unlike any other cartoonist. Chlorine Gardens is, in my opinion, her best collection yet.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Comics Alternative

    http://comicsalternative.com/comics-a...

  6. 5 out of 5

    MK King

    Roberts’ dry wit, sarcasm, autobio is hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time. She stomps through life with a fuck you abrasiveness and attitude that is clever and endearing. This was my second Roberts book and I applaud Koyama Press for their quality choice of artists.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Romany

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. This book is so dark, and I laughed so much. This is how people are. In all their glory.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liz Yerby

    This is the kind of simple day to day comics I find really refreshing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    With the reading of this book I hereby re-declare that Keiler Roberts is my favorite cartoonist. Oh lord I needed that. My heart grew, I scream-laughed, and I felt good.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary Pat

    Roberts' graphic novel uses the kind of humor necessary for the day-to-day life of someone with/in a relationship with chronic illness. Sometimes I actually laughed out-loud at the dark bits, and it felt good. It felt good to have someone say it out loud, and give permission for a WTF laugh. It also has plenty of quiet moments that show her life as a mother, wife, sibling... These often earned a smile and inaudible chuckle from me as well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Fragmented images of the life of the creative, bipolar author who was diagnosed with MS I'm mentally filing this one as 'I appreciate it, but I don't like it' as well as 'I don't think I really got it'. The thoughts were too jumbled and disorganized for me. I wanted more of a through storyline to follow. Right when I would start to attach to what was going on, the subject was changed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fantods

    subject and art was fine, but i disliked the pacing. the same panel layout on every page was not the author's friend. extremely deadpan, which i like, but i didn't realize that until half the book was over because the characters actions have so little context, and the faces have such little expression. which is true to life, but feels like a lost opportunity to tell such subtle stories. editing into something like chapters would make the changes in time and place and mood much less bewildering. subject and art was fine, but i disliked the pacing. the same panel layout on every page was not the author's friend. extremely deadpan, which i like, but i didn't realize that until half the book was over because the characters actions have so little context, and the faces have such little expression. which is true to life, but feels like a lost opportunity to tell such subtle stories. editing into something like chapters would make the changes in time and place and mood much less bewildering. i felt the narrative dreary, but i think the author intended the pieces to be plainspoken.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Being a human is tough. Especially a human parent. Keiler Roberts' Chlorine Gardens uncovers the connections that keep the lights on, even when it's really, really dark out. And it's so funny. I cracked up so hard while reading that my five-year-old joined me in cackling to tears. Then he asked why we were laughing. He is still clamoring for the story with the guy about to realize that he sat in dog poop.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Was not expecting to love this as much as I did but the cumulative effect of this book is undeniably effective. At times it felt like the thread holding everything together was lost to its detriment, but it just turned out I was in the hands of someone who knows what she's doing. Depressing, hilarious, self-effacing, and real, all the way to the last line of the Acknowledgments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brianna Sowinski

    Connected with this one in a way that I want to read everything they have ever written.

  16. 4 out of 5

    n

    What a humbling work. Deft, deadpan, profound but not preachy or despairing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth Kakuma-Depew

    The art didn't work for me. I couldn't get into the story and missed the drollness.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Smart, funny and honest comics about everyday life. Roberts tackles everything from motherhood to her MS diagnosis with brutal candor and deadpan humor.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pierre-François

  20. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dan Duncan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Rhode

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Luchins

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cari

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mateen Mahboubi

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lexi Wright

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Domek

  30. 5 out of 5

    Butterflave

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