Graphic memoirs are in a real danger of becoming an old hat. The genre seemed so groundbreaking in the early 90's when Art Spiegelman finished Maus, oGraphic memoirs are in a real danger of becoming an old hat. The genre seemed so groundbreaking in the early 90's when Art Spiegelman finished Maus, or even in 2000 with Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and there are still some interesting work published under the umbrella "graphic memoir." And it's a good thing that the new comic book releases shelve in our local library calls to me like heroin calls to Iggy Pop, or I might have missed one of them, namely Ulli Lust's Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life.
Compared to Ulli, many of us were probably quite tame in our teen-age rebellion. In 1984 she's seventeen year old punk rocker, and living alone in Vienna. She has turned her family's apartment into a hangout for her punk friends, and stopped going to school. But the real kicker comes when her new friend Edi convinces her to sneak across the boarder to Italy without passports.
In Italy they stay in Rome for a while, living in the streets with a bunch of other self styled freaks from all over the world. But when the weather starts getting colder, they head south, to Sicily. Big mistake. In southern Italy Ulli encounters a culture that allows grown women only one of two roles: that of the saintly wife and mother, or a whore. As a foreigner, and a free-spirited punk at that, Ulli never stands much chance of getting the men to respect her self-hood, or her right for bodily autonomy. Her honor is an alien concept, and when she tries to assert herself, she goes from whore to "crazy whore."
In my opinion, best comics are the ones that express things in ways that other art-forms can't do. To take an example from another graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel Fun Home. It's a good, powerful book, but it's hard to avoid the niggling suspicion that it could also work as a traditional prose work without losing much. Lust, on the other hand, uses her chosen medium to the fullest. She draws her younger self's feelings in a series of very arresting images, instead of explaining them, and she uses visual tricks that would look hokey in a movie. Which is not to say that the art here is flawless. The DIY punk aesthetic is evident in raw, gritty style.
One interesting point of comparison that came to mind while reading Today... was Craig Thompson's tour de force, Habibi, because both works deal with sexual exploitation of women. But as marvelous as Thompson's work is, it can't avoid the trap of objectifying the character whose objectification it ostensibly condemns. The male gaze is all over Habibi in a way that's wonderfully absent from Today. Lust doesn't have to draw Ulli's naked body in series of titillating poses, whereas Thompson apparently has to do that to Dodola.
So after all this praise, why only four stars, and not five? Well, for one thing. it's tad on the long side, and while most of the length feels earned, a bit of tightening up of plot wouldn't have gone amiss. For another, the raw and gritty style works for the most part, but a scene where three figures look enormous, because the perspective is not quite right, bugged me something fierce.
Last but not least, a word of warning: if you want to read the book, but you're likely to be triggered by depictions of sexual harassment, abuse, and violence, proceed with caution....more
Nowhere near as good or as explosively polemical as Exterminate all the brutes. For one thing, all the chapters are too short, so we just get a tiny gNowhere near as good or as explosively polemical as Exterminate all the brutes. For one thing, all the chapters are too short, so we just get a tiny glimpse into the lives and writings of these men and women. Then there's the fact that the book might to suffer from White Saviour Syndrome a little bit. But Lindqvist seems to know that, and his frankness about his own ignorance is rather disarming....more
Unpolished as these "reminiscences" are, Woolf's great mastery as a writer shines trough: her sharp wit, her wonderful skills as an observer, her inteUnpolished as these "reminiscences" are, Woolf's great mastery as a writer shines trough: her sharp wit, her wonderful skills as an observer, her intellect and sense of humor all make the book a pleasure to read. Of course, these are just fragments of what was supposed to become her memoir, left unfinished at the time of her death. There's some repetitiveness, to some passages, for example, a sense that what's on page, was just a rough draft, to be polished later.
But when Woolf is good, she's really good! The way she can bring these scenes and people to life, even while lamenting the difficulty of the task, is remarkable. As is the way she so seemingly effortlessly weaves the larger context of Victorian society into the tapestry of her own private life....more