Eleanor Davis collection of graphic short stories, How to Be Happy, is a sometimes whimsical, sometimes heartbreaking, journey through some of the idiosyncrasies of our modern lives, with some moderate influence of science fiction and fantasy. The subjects of How to Be Happy vary from retail managers trying to return to Eden, farming in a post-apocalyptic world, taming a woodland spirit, and a cross country bus trip. The common thread through most of the short comics is a commentary on the strange struggles and wonderful moments of everyday life. The art varies from the somewhat abstract painting style as shown on the cover art to relatively simple ink drawings, but all features the same flowing outlines of form.
Davis crafts very tight, compact stories for her debut collection. Many of the stories are an allegory for some current issue, but they deal with subjects with a degree of subtlety that recognizes the complexities of modern life. Davis has some really great insights and humor about the strange ways we live our lives in modern America.
Much of the art in the book is similar to the cover shown above, with somewhat abstract forms and bright saturated colors. Other comics feature black and white ink drawings. The flowing forms that Davis uses through much of the book are pleasing, and provide a good sense motion and gesture for the subject.
In summary, I enjoyed How to Be Happy a lot. If you are in the crowd that enjoys This American Life, you will probably enjoy Davis's debut work.
Overall: 4 / 5