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Phoebe Gloeckner is Cool

Illustrating a San Francisco Childhood

With her bright, intense eyes and incredible cheekbones, Phoebe Gloeckner is someone you would notice walking by on the street and take a second, and maybe third, look at. A comic artist, and now novelist, whose work often involves portraying a semi-autobiographical character, she is lucky to have such a striking face to work with.

Gloeckner's latest work, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, published in November 2002 by Berkeley's North Atlantic Books, is the story of Minnie Goetze, a San Francisco teenager with a whole lotta stories to tell. From having sex with her mother's boyfriend to doing copious amounts of drugs to exploring the many dark, raw corners of a 1970's San Francisco, Minnie is at once full of life and on the verge. Her voice is so young and true that you want to stop her and save her, but you're so enthralled by her stories that you just keep reading.

Ever snuck a peak at someone's diary? It's a dirty thrill. Reading The Diary of a Teenage Girl is the ultimate voyeuristic experience and it's also an incredibly brave and intense offering from a writer and artist. This is not easy reading, but once you start, Minnie really won't let you stop.

At a recent Modern Times reading, Gloeckner explained that the Diary developed after she transcribed hundreds of pages of her real-life teenage diary, word for word. After realizing that it didn't have the narrative strength that a good, solid book needs, she decided to treat the characters fictionally so she could tell the story in the way she wanted to. Some sections are illustrated with a single image, others with doodles, and still others are developed in full comic panels. The inner book covers offer a peek at her real teenage diaries.

Gloeckner's art is impeccably detailed -- you stare and stare and keep finding more to look at. A medical illustrator by trade (she attended SFSU, majoring in painting and pre-medical studies), she has been publishing her art in underground comic publications since she was in her teens. Her first book, A Child's Life and Other Stories, with a forward by R. Crumb, features more explicit, disturbing, and fascinating comic art depicting her childhood experiences. She has also illustrated JG Ballard's novel The Atrocity Exhibition, numerous concert posters, issues of Re:Search, and the third edition of The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex.

Gloeckner has departed San Francisco for the colder shores of New York's Long Island, where she teaches drawing at Suffolk Community College. Her website is worth a visit whether you are a new fan or old. Peruse and purchase excellent T-shirts that feature images from her art, funky medical illustration greeting cards, signed or inscribed copies of her books, and signed, limited editions of her rock posters. Take a look!