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The Animators: A Novel Hardcover – 31 January 2017
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ONE OF THE BEST DEBUT NOVELS OF THE YEAR--Entertainment Weekly
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR--NPR, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever. In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether. Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel's difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon's home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known--her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy--reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming. A funny, heartbreaking novel of friendship, art, and trauma, The Animators is about the secrets we keep and the burdens we shed on the road to adulthood. "Suffused with humor, tragedy and deep insights about art and friendship."--People "[A] stunning debut."--Variety "A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators."--Elle
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House (31 January 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812989287
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812989281
- Dimensions : 16.51 x 2.54 x 24.13 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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-My interpretation of a passage in this book
Somehow, I ended up with THREE copies of this book? How??? Two were gifts (one from co-worker, one from family) and one I bought on sale in the Kindle store, so clearly, the fates really, really wanted me to read this book. Which I did, finally. You're welcome, universe. Also, thank you, universe, because it turns out that THE ANIMATORS was exactly my cup of tea. Reminiscent of authors like Hanya Yanagihara and Donna Tartt, it falls into a genre of fiction that I have lovingly coined Literary Soap Opera™ and no, that's not a bad thing. I love my stories and this is a particularly good one. Mel and Sharon are both independent animators who met in college and bonded over their disturbed personal lives and working class lives in a Jeff Foxworthy-like interpretation of the south. Starting out as struggling artists, they eventually become key figures in the indie art movie scene.
Gradually, they become incredibly successful, their gritty, grungy autofiction sort of like cinéma vérité for cartoons. But of course, this is Literary Soap Opera™ and success does not walk hand in hand with happiness. Mel has many problems, including substance abuse and mother issues, and Sharon has a stroke that leaves a permanent impression on her body. Also, Sharon is haunted by a terrible and traumatic incident in her childhood that has left an indelible mark on her psyche. As they confront their inner demons, the bond between them grows more dependent and toxic, even though the two of them rely on each other not just to create but also to lean on, like kindred souls.
This closeness pushes away their partners and families, as they always come before each other, and their friendship is fueled by this relentless drive to create and fuel all of their passion and energy into their creative projects, even at the cost of their own mental and physical health. But with that closeness comes doubt: Sharon, our narrator, never feels like she's enough next to the vivid, larger-than-life Mel, who's brash and daring in a way that Sharon feels like she never will be. And even though they love and understand each other in a way that no one ever will, sometimes they find each other infuriating, and that artistic jealousy and insecurity might just become their undoing.
So yeah, I was trash for this book. As an author, I totally related to that push-pull need to work, work, work, exhausting all limits. When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I would sometimes stay up all night writing. There was one day where I wrote about one hundred pages in a twenty-four hour period with, like, no sleep, and then edited and published the book in under a month. Was that healthy? No. Did my brain care? Also no. I saw from the reviews that some people took issue with this manic, dysfunctional portrayal of the Tortured Artiste™ and while I understand the criticism of that trope, there is also an element of truth to it. I think a lot of people are driven to create because they're seeking a means of catharsis for their personal demons. Maybe not all people, but some. I certainly used writing as an outlet for that; and there is something cathartic about that.
There was a post I saw a while ago, admonishing people who glorify an artist suffering nobly through illness for the sake of creating and YES, hard yes, I completely agree. Seek help if you need it and don't suffer in silence while using your work as a crutch. That was something young me had to learn the hard way, when I was feeling isolated and depressed. Looking back on some of my earlier works, I think it shows up-- they have a desolate, claustrophobic feel. When I did stop writing for a while, I wondered if I would never write again-- kind of how, as Sharon tries to recover from her depression and trauma, how she will ever function on her own with her changed circumstances. Art does not necessitate suffering; your art might slow or change with your state of mind, but it will return. My writing did change over time-- I think for the better, but it's definitely different. Because I'm different. So in a way, I think you could interpret THE ANIMATORS both ways: you could see it as a cautionary tale or a note of hope, depending on how you feel about the characters.
I think it's a little of both. You can't let your inner demons roam unchecked, and the worth of what you create is not and should not be measured by how much you've suffered through it. Even separated from that, I think THE ANIMATORS is a brilliant portrayal of the intensely passionate (but platonic) relationship between two women, and all of the joy and suffering and tragedy that comes with loving and living by art. I loved all the passages about drawing style and cartoons. I loved their brainstorming sessions, and how Sharon's work shaped the way she thought about things. She thought in panels, I think in narratives. It was so relatable, even if it was different. If you enjoy literary works about messed-up people and are also passionate about art (or a creator yourself), I think you'll really love this as much as I did, with the caveat that these women are not to be emulated.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars
This book surprised me! I enjoyed it, and I wasn't sure I would. Mel and Sharon have been friends since college, spurring each other to greater artistry in their chosen field of adult cartooning. (Not porn, just not childish themes.) They work well together, with Mel coming up with most of the beginning ideas and Sharon hammering them into a shape that will work and keeping them on track through projects. But Mel has a drug and alcohol problem, and Sharon has a stroke, and working through all of those things are really what the book deals with.
The two go back to visit Sharon's hometown in Kentucky at one point, and the way Sharon describes the town, and how surreal it is and how she never felt like she belonged, even when she lived there - that was a really hard-hitting passage for me. I went back to my own hometown last Christmas, and I felt the same feelings Sharon has in the book. Seeing those feelings actually put into words was....strange.
I honestly didn't like either Mel or Sharon for the first few chapters, but as the story unfolds, they begin to open up. The book is about growing up in some ways; the two of them, though advancing in their careers, haven't had to do a lot of maturing emotionally until the events of the book. I thought they both become much more likable as that happened.
The writing was excellent in this book, the character development outstanding, and the plot heartbreaking in places. Even though it's not my typical reading fare, I really liked it.