Her Bark and Her Bite
The premise of James Albon’s Her Bark and Her Bite intrigued me. Painter Rebecca struggles to be discovered and have her work recognized, only to become Victor’s girlfriend and one of his hangers-on, seduced by going out and being popular. Then Victor transfers his affections to a new dog.
Unfortunately, the execution was as superficial as the milieu it describes. Rebecca’s a dishrag and Victor a self-centered bore. All he does is drink and talk about ideas for creative projects that will never happen. Becoming one of the popular people at first brings Rebecca some success, but as she spends more time drinking and dancing, she’s not painting.
There’s no character change, just a ridiculous twist near the end. Rebecca gets fed up with Victor for being exactly what she found so exciting earlier, but that’s just another example of selfishness. You don’t move in with the life of the party and suddenly expect him to focus on your needs. And it’s never clear what he saw in her. Her Bark and Her Bite is a book full of ciphers that I regretted spending time on.
The whole thing is done in colored pencil with not enough white space to rest the eye. I found the panels blending into each other. Additionally, the hand-written lettering was a bear to puzzle through. Sure, it’s artistically well-suited to the diary/confession style of the tale, but if I didn’t have hope that the story was going to eventually have a point — it didn’t — I wouldn’t have kept trying to work it out.
I’m sure younger readers will have less trouble with it, but I’m not sure how involved they would be in it in the first place, with its whiff of older people and their concerns about being popular and part of an “in crowd”. The whole thing could have been set in the 70s at Studio 54. (Which, given Victor’s clothes, would have been more believable in some ways.)
The publisher has posted preview pages. (The publisher provided a review copy.)