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The Animators Paperback – 27 February 2017
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From age eighteen on, I had a partner, a kindred spirit. I had a friend. Someone bound and determined to keep me from the worst in myself.At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon, ambitious but lacking confidence, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel, brash and wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over their love of classic cartoons, their dysfunctional working-class families, and - above all - their craft- drawing. Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, living and working in Brooklyn, and poised on the edge of even greater success after the release of their first full-length feature. But with this success comes self-doubt and cracks in their relationship start to form. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.Funny and heartbreaking by turn, The Animators is a dazzling story of female friendship, the cost of a creative life, and the secrets that can undo us.'An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love - familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make ... I wish I?d written The Animators.?- Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder'The Animators is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel about love and genius, the powerful obsessiveness of artistic creation, and the equally powerful undertow of the past. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes like her head is on fire.?- Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man' An outstanding debut ... Whitaker skillfully charts the creative process, its lulls and sudden rushes of perfect inspiration. And in the relationship between Mel and Sharon, she has created something wonderful and exceptional- a rich, deep, and emotionally true connection that will certainly steal the hearts of readers.?- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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About the Author
- Publisher : Scribe Publications (27 February 2017)
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1925321924
- ISBN-13 : 978-1925321920
- Dimensions : 15.4 x 3 x 23.2 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 256,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- 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.