Apr/May 2007

Need More Love: A Graphic Memoir

Karin L. Kross


Aline Kominsky Crumb was born Aline Ricky Goldsmith in Long Beach, New York, in 1948 and grew up in a chaotic household behind a tidy suburban facade. Her mother came from a well-to-do family and found success as an ad agent; her father was a small-time businessman and possible small-time crook, who died of cancer when his daughter was nineteen. Her escape into the counterculture of the 1960s led her to New York City, Tucson (with her first husband, Carl Kominsky), and, finally, San Francisco, where she became prominent in the underground comix scene of the late part of the decade and met and married fellow artist Robert Crumb. The couple now live in France, having moved there in the early '90s to escape overdevelopment in the small California town where they lived and the rising conservatism of American culture. In Need More Love, Kominsky Crumb relates these details by way of comics, photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, and reminiscences—a memoir she calls a "chance to flaunt my accomplishments in one intense volume that tells it all!"

The comics themselves are by far the strongest part of the book. Though the prose sections tie the memoir together and are chatty and informative, they are rarely as expressive as the cartoons on which Kominsky Crumb has built her reputation. She is open about her weaknesses as an artist—especially in earlier drawings, where the layout and line work can be somewhat crude—but these flaws are frequently outweighed by the self-deprecating candor of her storytelling, her talent for caricature, and her indefatigable sense of humor. In one illustration, she draws her husband as a golden-egg-laying goose, tucked under her arm as she flees America with the proclamation, "I'm outa here. . . . So long born-again Christians, P.C. bores, land-grabbing developers, gun-toting red necks! I'm just a big ol' cake-eating Francophile and I'm gonna wallow in sensual pleasure!"

There are also some dishy stories here: the family friend involved in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK, dramatized in GoodFellas; Kominsky Crumb's admiration and envy of fellow high school student and future Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton; the complicated relationship geometries of the comix scene, including how Kominsky Crumb's relationship with R. Crumb led simultaneously to her falling-out with Wimmen's Comics founding editor Trina Robbins and to Kominsky Crumb's creation, with Diane Noomin, of Twisted Sisters Comics. All of this was fodder for her graphic work, as is her marriage to Crumb—together they have documented their thirty-five-year union in publications from Dirty Laundry Comics to the New Yorker.

In the interviews, photographs, and illustrations of the final chapter, Kominsky Crumb offers a picture of a woman who, having "done it all, and to excess," through much personal strife, has arrived at a place of peace, health, and happiness. It's hard not to come away from this boisterous assortment of memories liking Kominsky Crumb and respecting her for embracing her identity as a femme d'un certain âge, who will always continue to grab the most from life.

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