Janet & Me

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When writer Janet Bode was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, she and cartoonist Stan Mack had been together for eighteen years. Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss is Mack's illustrated memoir of their relationship, focusing primarily on the years between Bode's diagnosis and her death in 1999.

A spirited, exuberant woman, Bode faced her increasingly debilitating illness with courage and found support among experts and friends as Mack adapted to the sometimes exhausting role of caregiver. The book documents how Bode responded with frustration (and often humor) to living with cancer, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and degrading experiences with indifferent medical institutions and personnel, as well as the joys of being healthy and in love, finding one's way in new emotional territory, and small moments of triumph over disease.

Mack's account is unusual among cancer memoirs as each page offers at least one sketch or cartoon illustrating or elaborating on his prose. Mack is the creator of the long- running Village Voice comic strip Stan Mack's Real Life Funnies, which used cartoons to illustrate actual conversations he overheard in and around New York. Readers familiar with Real Life Funnies will recognize Mack's conversational style and ability to convey much about relationships in a sentence or two. Small sketches of physicians, friends, and family appear in the margins alongside their comments, so they seem to speak directly to the reader. The drawings lend an emotional immediacy to this memoir that will be more accessible to many readers than prose alone.