Giraffes in my hair - A rock 'n' roll life

publisher: Fantagraphics
publish date:
language: English
pages: 136: Hard Cover


Bruce Paley turned 18 in 1967 during the Summer of Love, putting him on the front lines of the late-1960s youth movement. Paley’s tumultuous journey took him from being a Jack Kerouac-loving hippie in the 1960s, on the road with his 17-year-old girlfriend, dropping acid at Disneyland, living in a car, and crashing with armed Black Panthers at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, to hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, shooting heroin and cocaine with the likes of rock star Johnny Thunders, and frequenting Times Square’s seedy brothels — a journey that mirrored the changing times as the optimism of the ’60s gave way to the nihilism of the punk years. Over a dozen years, Bruce crossed paths with hippies, violent cops, rednecks, rock stars, and Black Panthers... and ended up a heroin addict for much of the 1970s.

These stories are vividly brought to life in Giraffes in My Hair (A Rock ’N’ Roll Life) by the compelling visual storytelling of Bruce’s partner, the cartoonist Carol Swain.

Swain’s trademark visual approach to comics, typified by exquisitely composed panels that vividly capture both anomie and pathos, is perfectly suited to dramatizing Paley’s life during that confusing, tumultuous period of American history — a life lived in the countercultural margins, amidst personal chaos and social dissolution. Swain’s storytelling rhythms are contemplative and breathes inner life into Paley’s turbulent stories, creating a perceptive prism to view the vast possibilities and endless pitfalls as experienced by a kid growing up in America in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

"Swain's low-key, nonchalant art fits perfectly with Paley's tales of hippie wanderings and punk-era decadence, stripping the stories of any rock glamor and tinging them with a genuine sadness. Really, this book just underscores how talented and sharp an artist Swain really is." – Chris Mautner, "The 6 Most Underrated Comics of 2009," Robot 6

"Paley’s 1960s coming-of-age experiences may not have been all that different than those of many others in his generation, but, judging by his comics memoir, he crammed many more typically ’60s incidents into his young life than they did. ... Despite all the debauchery, his remembrances are clear-eyed, vividly portraying the era in a fashion recognizable to those who shared it and revelatory to younger (or older) readers. His low-key approach to the sometimes shocking episodes finds perfect complementation in the understated black-and-white art of alt-comics veteran Swain, whose skillfully unadorned style and powerfully bold compositions starkly convey his often tumultuous story. Paley’s blunt depiction of his path from ’60s naiveté to ’70s punk nihilism constitutes a welcome corrective to the recent wave of dewy-eyed fortieth anniversary Woodstock nostalgia." – Gordon Flagg, Booklist

"[A] perfect union between text (intimate and profound, a hippie version of American Splendor) and image (somber and austere)." –

"Bruce Paley has decided to recount his 'rock and roll life' in a black-and-white graphic novel very persuasively illustrated by the British cartoonist Carol Swain... The pages devoted to Johnny Thunders are, unfortunately, utterly convincing: The reader encounters a Johnny T delineated only as those who have met him could." – Rock et Folk

"Bruce Paley's wanderings last over a decade. He presents the best parts in this disillusioned diary. The adventure leaves a bitter aftertaste, particularly when drugs become an insidious companion. That's one of the merits of this no doubt therapeutic monologue, whose drawings are as despondent as its narrative thread: It does not prettify the picture. It's not clear whether, given a chance to do it over, he would." – L'Express

"Hanging out here and crashing there, Paley narrates vignettes of debauchery and daily life in a Woodstock version of American Splendor. Partner Swain's smudgy, black-and-white drawings carry his grimy, nostalgic account." – Martha Cornog, Library Journal

Praise for Carol Swain:

"Swain has one of the most unique and compelling styles in comics.” – Time

“The Raymond Carver of British comics.” – Time Out

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