Review: Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

untitled
Cover courtesy of pantheon

Agggh! This book has sat on the floor of my bedroom since September of last yearbasically for my entire senior year thus fargoing unread! I made one cursory pass at it sometime during the fall semester, wasn’t really hooked by it, was kind of put off by the art style, and then abandoned it. Well, good thing I didn’t just return it to the library, because now I have read it, and it’s fantastic. (SIDENOTE: I am not a monster. Although my honors student status allows me to check out books for the entire school year without having to renew them, I normally don’t do so unless the book a. is incredibly obscure and clearly not in any demand or b. has multiple copies available. Radtke’s book [probably because she got her MFA here] has multiple copies at the UI library.)

Imagine Wanting Only This is a graphic novel memoir mainly focusing on a period of Kristen’s life starting with her undergrad career and ending shortly after leaving graduate school and moving to Louisville, Kentucky—the “stuck in them 20-somethings” period of life, to borrow a phrase from SZA. As the book moves between major decisions and life events in these years—moves, break-ups, illnesses—Radtke returns again and again to the themes of loss, deterioration, decay, the desire for something more, something new—and the way all these things conflict within her. Is it possible to hold onto the old and gain new relationships, new experiences? Is it possible to hold onto anything at all, when everything is so transitory? What is the value of preserving a ruin versus letting it fall into rot? The strongest through-line of the book is ruins. The urban decay of Gary, Indiana, the devastation of the Peshtigo fire, the volcanic destruction of a town in Iceland, even the mold and water damage in Kristen’s sad college apartment. These images hold the book together, link one event with another, and keep the book feeling cohesive despite the lack of any straight-shot plotline throughout the whole story.

I think one of the things that initially put me off about the book was Kristen and her boyfriend Andrew acting like such creeps (“Really, you can’t say the word ‘yes’ without invoking James Joyce,” Andrew opines at one point), and being unsure whether or not I was supposed to relate to them and feel like their grody behavior was romantic. Because I know these students, anyone getting a liberal arts education knows these students, and they’re the kind of students who I don’t care to be around because I can’t connect with them through their wall of irony and aggressively performed insightfulness. That said, it pretty quickly becomes clear that no, Radtke is not trying to romanticize (for example) the way these two descend on Gary, Indiana in the most exploitative, ruin-pornographer manner. It also becomes clear that a lot of their pretension and surety about the world is covering deep insecurities and internal tensions, which allowed me to relate to them in a way I’m sure I could never, I’m sure they would never let me, if I met them when they were that age at UIowa.Read More »

Last Year Comic Chronicle 26: Zeno’s Paradox

First  <<    >>  Last

Transcript

TEXT: Dichotomy Paradox: If something is to move 1 meter, it must first reach 1/2 a meter, then 3/4, then 7/8, then 15/16, and so on.
That’s how I feel about the end of college.
After 17 years in school, I’m finally leaving. And I keep thinking, damn, it’s really almost over, and yet it’s still not over. I keep reaching new halfway points, and it feels like the end will never arrive, and I’ll go floating through this parade of ever more awkward fractions forever.

TEXT: But Zeno’s paradox is solved. And though I don’t understand the solution, I know how to walk 1 meter.
I don’t understand the solution to reaching graduation. I have trouble imagining myself as a 30-year-old, a 25-year-old, a 22-year-old. And yet, I know, with factual certainty, that that’s where I’m going.

TEXT: I made it to the start of junior year, to the start of senior year, the 2nd semester, and now to Spring Break, which I’m guessing will be followed by a rapid drumroll of weeks I can hardly get a handle on until graduation.

TEXT: Last year last year last year.

TEXT: I don’t even know how to end this comic see how bad at endings I am hahahahaha.
Heh.

Last Year Comic Chronicle 23: Play

Attentive followers of this blog will notice that I did not post a comic last week. That’s because, I didn’t! And that is good! It is good that I took time to work on other projects and even (get this) to not work, and relax! I’ll make up for it with an extra comic at some point, but for now I’m just gonna keep rolling with the regular weekly comic. Maybe there will be another gap. Probably not, but who knows. Now enjoy a scene from my weird fantasy protest play.

First  <<    >>  LastRead More »

Last Year Comic Chronicle 14: Hell Yeah

First  <<    >>  Last

Transcript

PROFESSOR BRIAN: A ver. ¿Qué hacemos el viernes?
El viernes entregan la primera versión de su proyecto final, ¿no?
Pues, esta fecha límite …
yo la puse para ayudarles.
Eso es, no es para torturarlos.
Entonces …
si quieren … podemos …
extender la fecha límite, y pueden entregar su ensayo el lunes después de la vacación.

FRANCIS: HHHHHHHHHHHEEEEELLLLLLLL YEAH!

 

Last Year Comic Chronicle 12: Culture Shock

Not strictly a “Last Year” comic, since it’s about when I studied abroad last spring, but this past week I’ve been finishing up the travel memoir I wrote about that semester abroad, so it’s kind of topical.

12-cultureshock-2

First  <<    >>  Last

Transcript

TEXT: Based on how much emphasis my pre-departure study abroad courses and pamphlets put on “c u l t u r e  s h o c k,” this is essentially what I expected would happen upon arrival in Seville.

FRANCIS: Ooooooh nooooooo!!!! The cuuuuultuuuure! It’s shoooocking me!