Book Review: Abbi Jacobson, Carry This Book
I recently read and very much enjoyed Abbi Jacobson’s uproarious Carry This Book (New York: Viking Press, 2016). Jacobson is a trained commercial artist, and, in my opinion, comic mastermind, for she is one of the writers and actors on one of my favorite shows, “Broad City.” “Broad City” parodies the relationships of well-known female buddies such as Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise, and Oprah and Gail. Abbi and her bestie, Ilana’s, side-splitting chemistry is like that of Max and Caroline on another one of my favorite shows, “Two Broke Girls,” but their language and activities are more R-, or even, at times, X-rated. Abbi and Ilana have mad-cap, marijuana-enhanced adventures wherever they go, which Jacobson’s book reflects. It is a volume of tribute collages to “great” men and women: artists, writers, actors, fictional characters, reality TV “stars,” and people who are well known in pop culture, especially ones who have been laughed at like Willy Wonka, Sigmund Freud, and Bernie Madoff. Each image collages objects Jacobson associates with, or imagines one could find, in the purses, murses, backpacks, suitcases, totes, etc. of such people. Many of the compositions feature satirical lists, as well as remnants of Abbi’s and Ilana’s favorite pastimes.
My favorites are her collage tributes to Frida Kahlo (p. 94) and to Michelle Obama (p. 47). The Kahlo collage features drawings of paintbrushes, one of which has “Frida” printed on it, a cigarette, a set of tweezers (with text pointing to them that reads: “JUST CAUSE YOU CARRY IT, DOESN’T MEAN YOU GOTTA USE IT,” which is a comical jab at Frida’s characteristic unibrow). The background of the collage looks like it was composed with strokes of blue paint or markers, and red, orange, and pink swirly flowers dominate the frame, capturing, for me, Frida’s artistic tenacity and overall fabulousness. I especially appreciate Jacobson’s use of primary and complimentary colors – colors that appear opposite on the color wheel and, when paired, intensify one another – I often use such color pairings, drawn from my training in studio art courses.
Her Michelle Obama collage also drew my attention, because I had just completed my own collage in tribute to Michelle (that will be the subject of a one of my future blog posts). Abbi’s includes objects she, and I, for that matter, imagine would be in Michelle’s designer purse or tote bag: snacks, such as a Larabar, a Kind Bar, Werther’s candy, and a Kit Kat Bar, all of which have arrows pointing to them from the written text: “YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED.” There is also a note that looks like a fortune cookie fortune stating “Tomorrow is an important day for you.” A place setting with “Michelle Obama” in script is also in the composition, with a note beside and pointing to it that reads “I’M GUESING IT’S TABLE ONE.” And on the right side of the collage is a cell phone with earbuds attached that lists podcasts such as “Dear Sugar, “WTF with Marc Maron,” and “freshair,” a feature of NPR. Like the Frida Kahlo background, this one appears like strokes of marker or watercolor in green, complimenting the red Kit Kat Bar, the maroon of Kind Bar, and red and orange of the “L’A’RABAR.” This book, in addition to Jacobsen’s performances on “Broad City,” proves that Abbi is GENIUS.
Jacobson’s book of collages, and especially their lists, remind me of some of my own work. I remember my art therapist, Ilene, suggested a few times that I establish a ritual of making a collage or an image every day, perhaps like Carl Jung’s ritual mandala images, which I discuss in my memoir. I always resisted these suggestions, because, at the time, I already felt overwhelmed by my daily tasks and never-ending to do lists. But over time, I have put art-making on my lists and made collages from my lists. Some can be viewed at annmg.com.