Lynda Barry in 2022

Lynda Barry in 1991 from the May issue of Entertainment Weekly

Excerpts from a September 2022 interview with Lynda Barry in The New York Times.

On smart phones:

“It’s really sad. The main thing about the phone is that you’re no longer where you are. You’re no longer in the room. You’re no longer anywhere. The opportunities to have an interaction with the things around you are taken away. I just see the world as richer without the phone.”

On misery:

“When I started teaching at the university, I couldn’t understand why all the grad students were so miserable. I could pick out the grad students just by the way they walked in the room, you know? These are people that are at the top of their game. They’ve already shown that they want to work. They’re interested in something. Why is it acceptable that they’re all miserable? I was trying to figure out what the misery was. Then I thought, it is this laser focus on getting one particular thing done. This feeling that unless you’re working on it at all times, things are going to be bad. That kind of focus doesn’t set the conditions for insight or discovery. It’s like somebody yelling: ‘Relax! Relax!’ It’s never going to work.”

On acceptance:

“When I first started teaching, maybe I’d have 32 students in two classes. There would always be three or four who were dragging their tailpipes. I spent so much time on those students. I don’t anymore. I don’t crawl toward them with a glass of water like, Please, take this! It took me a long time to say I’m not going to be able to change somebody who doesn’t want to try or doesn’t need this. […] If you don’t have a need to do it, you don’t get anywhere. Those guys, they don’t have a need. I mean, I think they need it. You think they need it. They don’t think they need it. So there’s not a lot we can do, and that’s the hardest thing to accept.”

On art and depression:

“Depression is a big problem for me. I’ve always struggled with it, and the things that helped me from the time I was little were reading, drawing, stories, movies, songs. […] We’re born into a world that’s full of stories and characters that are right there for us. God, ‘Grimms’ Fairy Tales’ saved my ass. It’s the impulse to seek those things and then, because you’re seeking them when you’re a kid, the impulse to make them. Yeah, I’ve always had trouble with depression. Part of it is a difficult childhood, part of it is probably my nature. I’ve found that engaging in this kind of work — anything that adults call art and that kids might call a toy; that contains something alive — seems to make me feel that life is worth living. It’s a thing I always say to my students: Art is a public-health concern because it keeps you from killing yourself and others. [Laughs.] It’s not going to work for everyone. But I don’t think art has any saving qualities for people who don’t need it. It’s like, some people can’t digest milk, you know? But a lot of people can.”