"Life's just like that."
"But why is it like that?"
"Because life isn't fair."
"But why isn't it fair?"
"That's just how it is."
Cartoonist Guy Delisle tells it just like it is in his new collection of short stories about fatherhood, Even More Bad Parenting Advice from Drawn + Quarterly. It is a follow-up to his first familial collection, A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting, which carries on his tradition of quirky vignettes that are at once melancholy and jokey, a style that won Delisle Best Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2012 and a Gold Medal from the Independent Book Awards for his classic Jerusalem.
Delisle's drawing style borders on the adorable, with big-headed children with stick arms and classy outfits. The father is practically a self-portrait, giving an air of realism that permeates the stories in the collection. All of the incidents reflect real life, such as a father trying to introduce his son to a video game and taking over, or working out an escape plan from a boring party by attempting to convince the daughter that she's tired, or seeking revenge in a game of dodgeball on the kid who picks on his child at recess.
The humor in Even More Bad Parenting Advice is fairly dark. The father is selfish and lazy, yet he also clearly holds his children in esteem, impressed by their wit though happy to put them back into their places with quips and bribes. Conversations carry on about the wildest of topics, from the son asking how much it would hurt to be eaten by a shark ("Your mother's reaction to me telling her what happened to you. now that would hurt") to discussing what happens to people who live on the streets when it snows ("People can't sleep in the snow. Or else they die").
Best of all is the endless teasing that the father gives his children. In the discussion about the people on the street, the daughter suggests they invite one to come sleep over. The father agrees, but warns that he might be hungry enough to eat all of the chocolate chip cookies they'd baked. She decides that they'll just hide the cookies, then.
It seems that in every opportunity to teach a valuable lesson, the fatherly advice goes terribly wrong because of his teasing. When seeing a flag warning of possible sharks at the beach, he suggests they swim in the middle of the biggest group of swimmers. "That way, if a shark shows up, it'll bite someone else before it bites us. a wall of human bait."
Even More Bad Parenting Advice is a great read for anyone who had that father or is that father. The stories are quick, yet well paced with moments of tension built through repeated cartoons. The jokes are sly and subtle so that they come alive more and more with every read, making the book something readers will pick up again and again for a smile.