Some things you have to approach differently. If a band you like release an EP, it’s not an album, is it? (Provided you think in that antiquated sort of way.) Similarly, Guy Delisle – whose travelogue graphic works, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City we rate very highly indeed – also has a newish sideline in slighter comedic works – to date, A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting, Even More Bad Parenting Advice and now The Owner’s Manual to Terrible Parenting. These are slighter works, EPs rather than albums. Which isn’t to say that they are not fun, especially if you are a parent yourself, and rather to admit that perhaps they don’t loiter in the corners of your mind as long as the more substantial works do.
What we have here are about 20 interludes, short episodes in which Delisle behaves in a way that is not strictly out of the good parenting guide: so he corrects his daughter’s pronunciation of son of a bitch, he breaks his son’s toy helicopter, he acts in selfish and contradictory ways, he loses his temper (encouraging his daughter to sing at the table until she starts to make a mess with her waffles), showing off (eating mustard by the spoon to demonstrate who is the king of mustard), wasting time – from the child’s perspective – making and then labouring a point of order (we’ve all been there, right?), suffering in turn the indiscriminate unkindnesses of children themselves (“I like mum better”) and, eventually, sharing more truth than a child’s mind can probably contain (“…you start at the bottom of the ladder, you put up with incompetent managers, you keep your mouth shut. And in the end, when you’re totally worn out, you retire. And then you die.”).
It’s fun. You’ll enjoy it. Particularly, as we can’t emphasise enough, if you’re a parent and can see the truth of what he’s sharing and, you know, acknowledge that possibly you’re not the best parent in the world all of the time. As a book, you’ll read it in maybe an hour. It’s a quick read. There are a few giggles and even a couple of genuinely laugh out loud moments. Which, you may agree, warrants the price of admission. The only criticism really arises from direct comparison with his other books, where the reader is offered more than comedy, more than insight, because they are larger narratives. We hope Delisle still has some longer narratives in him. We hope he’s not decided to plough this furrow forever. As pleasant as it is. (It’s even possible we’ll like this furrow more, and come back to it again, when we know this isn’t, you know, it, from here on in.)
Any Cop?: Slight but fun graphic shenanigans from a writer we know is capable of doing a lot more.