Review by Frank Plowright
Fans of Carol Lay’s Story Minute strips unable to access the newspapers in which they’re syndicated had to wait almost fifteen years for another collection following the demise of her previous publisher Kitchen Sink.
The presentation of Illiterature is slightly smaller than Now, Endsville, Joy Ride and Strip Joint, but these are otherwise the same imaginative, capricious, observational strips to be found in those collections. The world is a better place for them.
Diversity is once again key to the appeal once you’ve absorbed the fabulously expressive cartooning. Lay seems to work in the manner of the best improvisational comedians in being able to take any topic and supply an entertaining twelve panel strip about it. Better still, that strip is likely to be thought-provoking in addition to fulfilling the brief to amuse.
Even better than that is despite such a rich haul available between two covers, Lay’s imagination and talent never lets the reader become blasé about the strips. She constantly surprises. Towards the end of the book there’s a fantastic story about a planet where the seasons each permanently occupy a quarter of the surface. In order to follow a natural cycle people have to move every three months, yet that’s not the end of the invention at play.
Although each strip can be consumed individually, there are a few connected sequences, never exceeding five strips. The best of those plays to Lay’s strengths by positing a world where dreams can be recorded, and those of particular dreamers have a ready audience. Another has blind psychic Madame Asgar on trial for culpable homicide when a client chooses not to believe her warning of imminent death.
There are topics that provide a continuing basis for scrutiny, the assorted reasons relationships fail for one, but when returning to a subject Lay always provides a fresh approach. This is stunning material and deserves a far wider audience.
Sadly, the ‘Volume One’ subtitle appears to have been unduly optimistic, as there have been no further volumes to date. The entire run of the strip is archived online on Carol Lay’s webpage, but at a frustratingly small size.