It seems that I like auto-bio comics. The other thing is that I seem to really like auto-bio comics that are set in locations near to where I've lived. Or where I live.
This one is no exception.
I'm on the lookout for vignettes or anecdotes about people and places where I may have been before, or potentially had hung out at the same time the writer was hanging there. In other words - maybe we totally know each other?
That’s never the case. It's more likely that I'm just looking for reflections of myself, like I've found a way to expand my own existence--and thereby validate my choices, and my life--by finding out that I was physically near something important, even if it was a passive form of participation. I was just reading Mindy Kaling’s book and realized that at one time she was living in an apartment almost right around the corner from where I'm typing this. When I read the part about how her and her best friend were doing the “Matt & Ben” show, I totally flashed back to when that was out, when I'd see the flyers, when my circle of friends would say "have you heard about" and "I'm going to see it". I was right here while her story was unfolding. And while mine was as well, I don't think of it that often, and I certainly don't treat it as a narrative that I remember in order. It comes in flashes, in moments of embarrassement and joy. It's lumpy, with certain anecdotes standing out in relief due to the way I've gone back to them over and over again. But I read Kaling--or Wertz--and I start to piece it together the way they have, to remember how I got to that apartment, how I found the people I knew, where we were, what, why--that whole old lesson, all over at once.
Anyhow. What has that got to do with anything? I don't know! But it came along all the same. I just find comics about girls moving to NYC (or Brooklyn) and finding their own way to be interesting because I did that, too. It’s a weird time in a girl’s life when she goes and does it, when she makes this choice and finds out what comes along with it. Having the comics medium to frame it in for oneself is really cool--it is all their own, and the way it flows is so personal and slippery. I wish I had something like that. I just have oodles of complain-y, boring journals.
But enough about me - I guess I should really talk about the comic. It’s very funny - Julia Wertz has that sort of self-deprecating humor going on that I can never pull off because I just say something mean and people think I hate myself and get uncomfortable. But what’s really interesting is to see it drawn as well as spoken. She draws herself in such a way that is quite nearly androgynous. Her hair seems to be in this bob with bangs for her entire life, and according to her she just wears the same black shirt all the time, has horrible posture and just doesn’t take much care of herself. Then you see the photo of her in the back of the book, and she’s totally adorable and bears very little resemblance to her comic book self. I found that endearing and hilarious, and while I don't know what possessed me to never flip to the back and see that picture, I'm glad I waited for it. It's not that she’s not capable of drawing herself, it's that her self deprecations goes so far beyond thought that she draws herself looking nothing like reality.
I loved the format of the book. Generally it sticks to one “story” per page, and they're generally between six and nine frames. Again, I think about how therapeutic it must be to take the days and mini-dramas of one life and boil them down into a six frame story on a single page. Something with a beginning, middle and end, conflict and some form of resolution. What a great way to make sense of the nonsensical time of one’s twenties, when you've lost all the structure of school and are handed the full responsibility of managing the rest of your life. To read this is to remember when I had to start giving myself a bedtime.
I recently “marathon-watched” all of the episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, quickly followed by a viewing a of Tiny Furniture. I feel like I was having some sort of weird mid-life crisis where I was nostalgic for the awful pain and uncomforability of my early 20's. I mean, Girls captures it so so well. It was very hardly ‘fun times” for me. And although on paper it probably looks all sexy - I moved to New York to pursue my dreams, go to auditions, live on my own, etc. etc., -- it really was completely excrutiating and I express gratitude upon gratitude daily for the very fact that my life has turned out to be this beautiful thing that it is. Because...ugh, what a rocky road!
Wertz’s honest commentary on her bad choices, her inability to be the adult she thinks she is supposed to be, and her ironic drinking problem in the face of her brother’s crippling addiction just have me rooting for her from the first page. I guess that’s what keeps me reading....waiting to see how and when it starts to change, for her life to improve. I want joy for her so badly.
Toward the end, we get a glimmer of the hope that awaits her - her darling new apartment in an adorable area, a publisher who "gets" her, etc.....but its not all sewn up yet. Nah - gotta keep me interested for the next book, right? Can’t have an auto-bio comic about how good life is in your 30s....that’ll be just boring, right?
To be honest, it could be about anything. I'm on board no matter what.