In this stunning graphic autobiography, Bruce Paley recounts his life as a teenager in the 1960’s through adulthood in the 1970’s. It begins with his days as a young hippy obsessed with Jack Kerouac, taking acid at Disneyland and hitchhiking across the country in an attempt to find “the America that isn’t in the guidebooks”. His love of Marvel Comics and the Who and his humorous stories of avoiding the draft eventually give way to harrowing tales of heroin addiction and self loathing as the peace & love era of the ‘60s gave way to the nihilism of 1970’s punk.
Bruce Paley tells his tale with no frills and no holds barred. It’s all told very matter-of-factly and honestly and he tells a story about stealing watermelons from a small-town grocery store with the same candor as he talks about trudging through a blizzard with two fellow junkies looking to score. The book is at times quite funny and other times terribly depressing, but it is never dull and I found it hard to put down.
Carol Swain’s artwork fits the mood of the book well. It’s fairly simple but it hits all the right notes and evokes the right emotions. I was completely unfamiliar with her work prior to this book, but I’ll keep an eye out for her in the future.
Uhhh… nothing much. I guess I wouldn’t have minded a little bit more background on some of the folks in the book (or on Paley himself), but that didn’t really seem to be the point.
I found this book to be incredibly compelling in its own laid back sort of way. While I am decades younger than Mr. Paley and certainly have not lived the life that he has, I nevertheless found myself identifying with certain aspects of the story. Who among us hasn’t been young and in love or done something impetuous and foolish? Committed petty theft and been caught or waved a middle finger at the Man? Of course, I’ve never lived in New York and done heroin with Johnny Thunders, so that part of the story wasn’t exactly something I could identify with, but you get the point.
There’s no shortage of books out there about the 1960’s and ‘70s, but this one felt a lot more personal than most. Paley’s words mingled with Swan’s artwork so perfectly that you almost felt like the guy was sitting across the table from you, sharing a beer or two and swapping stories. If you’re interested in that era or you just like a good autobiography, I’d give Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock n’ Roll Life a shot.
And yes, they do explain the title in the story.