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Read today. I am caught up! I refuse to fall behind again!

This is a memoir of growing up in the late 1960s in Malaysia. Apparently it is a sequel to the author's Kampung Boy, which the library did not have, but it stands by itself. Lat draws in a very fluid, loose, expressive, intentionally 'cartoony' style, and this is sort of a cross between a comic and an illustrated novel in which there's an illustration for every paragraph.

There's not much in the way of plot, but there's a great deal of detail and atmosphere. Street scenes are popping with background market transactions, traffic, construction work; interiors are cluttered and homey and lived-in, changing over time but retaining an essential sameness that gives the feel of spaces evolving naturally during the eight or so years the comic covers.

Lat and his family move into town when he is ten. They live in the first low-cost housing project in Malaysia-- there is a panel of his recollection of his father accepting their new house keys from a Very Official Person, everyone grinning for the cameras, and then they all troop off to look for the house, not entirely certain where it is. Town, to Lat, means connection to the wider universe: Lawrence of Arabia in Arabic, Bill Haley and the Comets on the record-player his friend from school has in the little room over his family's Chinese tea room (and the pure, perfect joy evoked by thirteen-year-olds meeting rock and roll for the first time leaps off the page). It means learning to draw, becoming the guy who knows about drawing, magically managing to use that to snag a date with the girl he's been eying for years-- but not two dates. Town means excitement, and the excitement of it never fades.

This is an art style I can take or leave, and as I've said there's not really much plot, or much structure. It's a series of entertaining incidents lovingly described. It does well for that, though I don't think it would do much for me on reread. However, there is one thing I wish the publisher had done: notes. There are about six languages used in the text, and they are mostly not translated into English. This is fine, except that a) the protagonist understands them, and b) the author expects the audience to understand them. Leave things in the original language, yes, do, please, that's the best way to make sure your English readers know what language they're in; but could we have some notes, at the bottom of the page, or at the end of the book? I felt as though I was getting about half the text, and I don't think that's the experience that was actually artistically intended.


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