Gabrielle Bell’s New Experiment in Autobiography
Introducing the Colombia Diaries
Gabrielle Bell, indie comics darling and anxious auto-bio queen, has trouble introducing her work.
“I find it difficult,” Bell told The Nib, “I usually say they are comics about myself, and then I get really quiet and mysterious and hope it makes people want to learn more about me.”
To facilitate learning more about Bell, this week The Nib will be publishing ‘The Colombia Diaries’ — an excerpt from her new book, Truth is Fragmentary: Travelogues & Diaries.
Unlike her other autobiographical comics, ‘Colombia Diaries’ was written in third person by a fictional secretary.
“It was an experiment,” Bell explained, “I’d done so many diaries and travelogues at this point I felt in danger of repeating myself, and also simply sick of my own voice.
“So this was meant to be a new twist.”
The comic covers Bell’s 2013 trip to Colombia, originally title the ‘Colombia Comicumentiary’, but was not drawn on site.
“I kept a pretty loose diary, for the most part, and took notes, and took a lot of photos, then later assembled the whole thing,” Bell said.
“I’m definitely working very closely with reality with autobiography.
“I’ve got my ear to the ground, and with every encounter I have, I ask myself, ‘can I use this?’
“There has to be the right amount of stimulation and downtime I think, or I get either overwhelmed or uninspired.”
Bell’s dedication to documenting her experiences in short pieces, even while working on longer projects, is what led to the collection for Truth is Fragmentary.
“Almost every time I took a trip I would do a comic about it,” Bell said, “And then I started this thing of doing a daily comic diary every July.
“This was mostly meant for my own gratification but they seemed to get a good response — which is to say, I was encouraged to do it more and more, which led me to think it could make a good collection.
“I want to do more travel diaries.
“But I’m hoping I can be quicker and more efficient while at the same time more and more entertaining.
“I want it all.”
Gabrielle Bell is currently working on a graphic novel about a man who goes to Siberia to be an assistant to a hermit.