We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe

Algonquin. Oct. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781616209032. $24.95. Rated: Teen+. memoir
Comedian Markoe (What the Dogs Have Taught Me) combines text, illustration, and scans of the diary she kept as a preteen and teenager in this coming-of-age memoir that doubles as a meditation on the nature of memory. Opening in 1958, as her family relocates to Florida from New Jersey following her father’s business going bankrupt, Markoe supplements early entries providing bare-bones recollections of daily life with droll commentary from her present perspective. As a teenager, Markoe’s obsession with popular culture and yearning for romance finds her opening a roadside psychiatric stand (à la Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts) in hopes of engaging boys in conversation; as the memoir progresses into the 1960s, she rages at her fellow Beatles fans for screaming too loudly during a concert, becomes interested in Sartre, Bob Dylan, and politics, and develops her idiosyncratic voice and worldview.
VERDICT Markoe’s reflections and interrogation of her memories are hilarious and presented with a surrealistic flair in scenes depicting everything from an interview of a hippopotamus representing her own hippocampus to a commiserating of her modern and adolescent selves.
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