Archive | October, 2016

Reality

31 Oct

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Rob’s mom sends me a very thoughtful birthday package every year. I consider it one of the great advantages to dating an only child, specifically an only child named Rob. I get a lot of attention.

The package is always themed and wrapped perfectly. Each gift has a purpose and a meaning to it. This year everything was wrapped in a beautiful, pale pink pattern  with flowers and fruit—a masterpiece that I wish was wallpaper in every room of my home.

I immediately set about to take a picture of it, this wrapping paper, and when I was satisfied with my editing job, I posted it online.

My final picture looks only vaguely related to the real thing. Maybe a cousin, where you squint and say, “Oh yeah I can see the resemblance, I guess.”

It’s pretty though, and it goes with my color theme on Instagram.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what we post online and reality. It’s nothing new, I don’t have some groundbreaking information that will change your world or make this blog go viral. But I’ve been thinking about my own life and what’s out there, probably because lately I’ve been sad.

I almost said “sort of sad,” or feeling a “little low.” There are all sorts of euphemisms we say to others, and we say online. Because this blog is public and employers can read it and future employers can read it and you can read it.

I am always a couple shades further from exactly how I feel on this blog. I’m always a bit brightened, the contrast higher, the saturation up. It looks right for my feed, the online version of myself I’ve curated.

The real-life version isn’t quite the same. My real life is the vaguely related cousin.

I haven’t been sad for any particular reason. I don’t want to alarm you. Things aren’t terrible or awful right now. I’ve been a bit lonely, I think. Overwhelmed with the amount I have to get done. Feeling like a failure in the things I want to succeed at most.

Normal life sadness without really a particular point I can put it all on to make it seem better.

See, this tragedy occurred that’s why I’m not so happy.

See, I’m normal.

I am sad and that’s the reality.

I know what to do from here, I’ve been here before.

But I’m sad.

Graphic Novels You Oughta Know

24 Oct

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In this, the Year of our Lord 2016, I, Jillian Denning, got into graphic novels.

We never thought this day would come. We, the collective we, the people who care so deeply about my reading habits. (Me.)

I don’t know why I hadn’t read a graphic novel before this year. I had just kind of dismissed the genre as superhero comics I didn’t care much about and sexual manga storylines I really didn’t care much about.

And guess what? I read some superhero comics and didn’t care for them after all, just as I suspected!

This was, after all, the year of the graphic novel.

I tried every genre.

I read the classics. Sandman. Watchmen. I tried popular ones and standalone novels and series and super heroines and and and.

And I’m here to tell you that I really love graphic novels.

And I think you will too.

And, and, and.

Here’s where you should start. If you have taste like me.

(Which I assume you do, or that you’re related to me if you read this blog.) (Hi mom!)

1. El Deafo by Cece Bell

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The first graphic novel I read, recommended by the lovely Bailey. It’s a graphic novel memoir, which turns out is my peanut butter and jelly. Based on her childhood, Cece Bell talks about growing up hearing impaired and what it was like having a phonic ear. Something about graphic novel memoirs really hits home. Being able to draw your feelings adds a level that I really, really like.

2. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

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The ultimate in the graphic novel memoir. Roz Chast draws for the New Yorker and this book was nominated for the National Book Award. I LOVED it and I have so little in common with Roz, who is caring for her aging parents. I am not a middle-aged cartoonist and my parents aren’t hoarders and yet I was HERE. You will be too.

3. Maus by Art Spiegelman

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A classic in the graphic novel genre, it tells the story of Art Spiegleman’s father’s experience during the Holocaust. Maybe you read it in school? I hear people read it in school.

4. Here by Richard McGuire

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An interesting one because there are practically no words, just pictures of this one room in this one house throughout time. It jumps to the past, future and present and explores how humans remain constant. How we lose things and gain things, fall in love and have our hearts broken and we are all the same, at the end. We are all human.

5. Smile (and Sisters) by Raina Telgemeier

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Raina is a complete master of graphic novels and everything I’ve read of hers is flawless. Read Smile, you, you, anyone of all ages. Yes you. It’s the story of her dental work in middle school and you will relate and yes, it’s another graphic novel memoir.

6. Anything by Lucy Knisley

Someone called Lucy the Lena Dunham of comics. Is that because they are similar ages and write about themselves? Probably. I didn’t particularly find their humor or selves all that similar, but I did and do love Lucy.

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She writes little travelogues and bits about her life. She loves Harry Potter (and made this incredible graphic SumHarry which I’m getting printed for my wall.) I also have a crush on her husband and their relationship. I liked her Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride best, I think. I just like her, really.

7. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

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A sweet Newbery Honor book (see, graphic novels are all the buzz) about a girl who takes up Roller Derby right when she’s losing her best friend. I hope it’s a series. I hope it’s a movie. I hope you hope this too.

8. Fun Home by Alison Bechel

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From the creator of the Bechdel test herself! Now a Tony-nominated Broadway musical! But really, Fun Home is kind of THE book in the graphic novel memoir genre. She’s cited by my dear Lucy Knisley many times. It wasn’t my favorite I read, but it deserves a place here, because what if it’s your favorite and I deprived you of that?

9. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

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A National Book Award finalist and favorite on YA lists, American Born Chinese tells three interlacing stories about what it’s like to be a Chinese American. There’s this twist that made me go whoa and probably will make you go whoa whoa too.

Comics!

Also comics!

Let’s talk about comics. No exclamation.

The difference between graphic novels and comics is that comics are serialized and come out regularly. Sometimes they are then combined into graphic novels you can pick up. But Superman? That’s a comic. A graphic novel memoir? That’s a…graphic novel.

Anyway. I am a person now who follows two comics. I read the editions and wonder what will happen and when I can get the next one. I am invested in characters and plotlines and part of me worries. Like what if this goes on forever? How long can I follow? Is this a til-death-do-us-part thing?

The musings of anxious comic reader.

1. Saga by Brian Vaughan

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Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet. A sweeping love story against the backdrop of an intergalactic war with so many twists sometimes I wonder what the brain (Brian Vaughaun) behind this all is like. It’s also one of those banned books that we celebrated a few weeks ago, so get on that.

2. Giant Days by John Allison

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The story of three best friends in their first year college in the UK. I’m a sucker for female friendship stories and England so this was bound to get me excited, but it’s also witty and charming and fun. Let us not underestimate fun.

And now, I’ll leave you with a picture from Lucy Knisley’s Relish and the hope that you’ll join me on this graphic novel journey of mine.

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Mmmmm

Do Unto Yourself

23 Oct

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Anne Lamott, in her yearly essay urging us all to stop dieting, says something I think about often.

One of the ways she talks about food is to encourage people to prepare every meal like their pastor is coming to dinner.

You wouldn’t say, “Here Pastor–let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you.” And then stand there gobbling from your own tubular container.

No, you’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before your pastor at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now. Wow!

Prepare every meal like it’s for someone you love and admire.

The phrase do unto others as you would have done to you is a good one, especially if you’re an out-of-control narcissit who needs help treating others like human beings.  But I think the reverse is equally powerful.

Do unto yourself as you would have others do to you

Or even

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

Hilary came to stay last week. It was a week full of chili cheese fries and laughter, nostalgia and moving forward. It was a good week.

Before she came, I cleaned my apartment top to bottom. I organized my pantry. I swept and mopped the floors. I washed every single item that could possibly need to be washed. I filled my life with fresh flowers and fresh cookies.

The night she arrived I made big bowls of steaming pasta topped with arugula. We sat on my barstools and ate on y placemats.

Two days after she left I ate expired mac and cheese and a box of Fruit by the Foot on my bed.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Maybe when a friend shows up at my house and does my dishes and feeds my plant and generally looks after my well-being she is doing to me what she would like done to her and I am doing to Hilary what I would like done to me and we teach other. Through our actions and examples we show each other how we should treat ourselves.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

That’s what we’ve longed for our whole lives, and get to create now.

 

Wow.