Love That Bunch by Aline Kominsky-Crumb is a raw and visceral reflection of a life. Kominsky-Crumb holds nothing back as she delves into her experiences. With a series of gritty and stylistically-unique short vignettes, Kominsky-Crumb brings the audience along for the ride as she tells the stories of her first sexual encounter, motherhood, drug use, finding love, and everything in between. Love That Bunch is a perfect example that a life tends to be full of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“Bunch” is Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s name for herself in this autobiographical graphic novel. She begins the book with her formative teen years. Growing up in the beatnik 1950s and psychedelic 1960s, Kominsky-Crumb would escape her constrictive Long Island life for the counterculture of the East Village in New York City. In this graphic novel, the author discusses all aspects of her adolescence—her parents’ abusive relationship, her struggles with weight and food dependency, and her own abusive relationships at the hands of men. The story continues with her comic industry beginnings, her marriage to well-known comic artist Robert Crumb, the birth of their daughter, and their eventual move to France. Parenting, sexual frustration and desire, aging, and marriage are all topics of interest. Kominsky-Crumb holds nothing back in her analysis of a life, rich and full.
The writing style is perfect for this autobiographical tale. Kominsky-Crumb uses mostly dialogue with a few bits of setting and movement narration to portray the life of Bunch. The colloquial language feels natural and adds a dose of reality. People generally do not talk in proper grammatical fashion in their day-to-day life and this holds true for Love That Bunch. The writing is raw. It’s blue. It’s no-holds-barred. It’s not for the squeamish. It’s real and wonderful.
The artwork of Love That Bunch is grotesque, but in a good way. Kominsky-Crumb’s unique style is in parts absurd and beautiful. Each panel is chock-full of people and dialog. It can sometimes be overwhelming to the reader’s eye. It’s easy to get lost in the detail and the depiction of Bunch and her life. Characters are prone to unflattering facial features, distorted bodies, and detailed genitalia. Zits pop off the page. Mouths are crammed with buckteeth. Noses are large and mouths are extra wide. The reader has both the urge to look away in disgust and the desire to soak it up with their eyes. The artwork is a character in and of itself. These gritty panels are integral to the storytelling. They reflect the weird inner workings of Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s mind. They partner perfectly with the writing.
Love That Bunch is appropriate for an adult audience and is certainly not for the faint-of-heart. The raw language and graphic depictions of nudity, sexual acts, and drug use render this graphic novel 18+. Those who enjoy Love That Bunch would also like Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Stitches by David Small, and Blankets by Craig Thompson. These are all graphic memoirs that encapsulate the rawness of life. Love That Bunch is a tale worth telling and normalizes life’s ups and downs. Readers leave this story with a better realization that life is dirty, raw, and complicated.
Love That Bunch
by Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Art by Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Drawn and Quarterly, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 18+