The Sylvia Chron­i­cles: 30 Years of Graph­ic Mis­be­hav­ior from Rea­gan to Obama

Nicole Hol­lan­der
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
Nicole Hol­lan­der makes peo­ple laugh. She’s the one out­spo­ken fem­i­nist no one can ever accuse of lack­ing a sense of humor. And this col­lec­tion of Sylvia car­toon strips is one of her best. Whether she’s lam­bast­ing peo­ple for their polit­i­cal hypocrisy or expos­ing a nerve in the worlds of food or fash­ion, Hollander’s alter ego — the dark-haired, cig­a­rette smok­ing, cat-lov­ing Sylvia — reflects a view of our times that is salient, sharply wit­ty, acer­bic, and instant­ly rec­og­niz­able for its uni­ver­sal truth. 

In addi­tion to its many strips, The Sylvia Chron­i­cles con­tains the added bonus of a lit­tle his­to­ry. Hol­lan­der tells us how the car­toon char­ac­ter was born and how she devel­oped her idea into a nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed strip that today appears in over 80 news­pa­pers around the U.S. While she pro­vides a wel­come win­dow into the cre­ative process, she fol­lows it quick­ly by a prof­fered boot out the door to Rea­gan, Bush, Clin­ton, and Palin. Thir­ty years may be a long time in pol­i­tics, but Sylvia tra­vers­es it — and does so with a star­tling com­plete­ness — in a mere 126 pages. 

Hol­lan­der first began pro­vid­ing com­men­tary on the foibles of those of us who par­take in Amer­i­can life in 1979, set­ting Sylvia in Chica­go and giv­ing her a pair of high-heeled fuzzy slip­pers, a shock of black hair and a total lack of inhi­bi­tion. The absur­di­ties she uncov­ers as she lets Sylvia’s ideas run wild have won her mil­lions of loy­al fans.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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