Provided you go into Guy Delisle’s A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting armed with the right knowledge, a lot of fun is to be had. There are certain things to know in advance, however. If, for example, you are a fan of Delisle’s four excellent graphic travelogues (Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Burma Chronicles, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China), you should know that A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting is to them what a sketch show is to a sitcom. There is also, it should be said, a point about size – where the travelogues feel substantial, often arriving in heavy hardback form, running to sometimes two or three hundred pages, the User’s Guide feels like a mass market paperback. You could slip it in your pocket at not much of a push (and quite possibly get from one side to another in a 45 minute bus journey if you were that way inclined). Which isn’t a criticism necessarily – you just need to know, when you’re shelling out your dough that here is a book firmly in the Scenes from an Impending Marriage camp (which, again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we liked that book and we liked this book – there is just maybe a question of whether it is entirely good value).
What we have here are just over a dozen comic interludes, in which Guy (or Guy’s cartoon equivalent) fashions elaborate responses from the tooth fairy (having forgotten to remove a baby tooth from beneath his son’s pillow), critiques one of his daughter’s pictures (in a way that I’m sure a great many parents will chuckle over), tries to prise his son away from his computer games, gives out way too much information at bedtime and upsets one of his children by playing dead. His wife remains off the scene as she does in the Travelogues. Delisle fans will recognise the artwork, which always feels friendly for some reason, although it is usually two frames or less to a page here compared to the more complex pages in the Travelogues. Even though it feels slight, however, the fact of its existence (which proves Delisle has his eye on concocting gentler stories, less political stories, trying his hand arguably at things he hasn’t in a while) is a good thing. We like Delisle, support him in all his endeavours and are even glad we have a Delisle book to share with our own children (my eldest read A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting and, in reaction to the cover which shows dad reading a book while young daughter almost pulls an iron on herself, said, ‘hey dad, this guy’s like you’). Which is always good to hear.
Any Cop?: A lesser Delisle to be sure, but a pleasure nevertheless.