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review of ulli lust
  Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life Ulli LustFantagraphics$35.00, 460 pages REVIEWED BY   EDDIE CAMPBELL    AUG 19, 2013 I became interested in this book  when I saw it in passing in Angouleme last year. It had wonthe ‘revelation’ award theprevious year, which soundsself-explanatory. But its look drew me to it. There are now enough divisions andsubdivisions of comics, that thegeneral idea of a comic may besuggested immediately by itsappearance. You can see a book from a few yards away and get asense of what it is about. Indeedit often feels that there are only afew things that it can be about. And why should it be otherwise?So it’s autobiographical, what the book trade has been calling ‘graphicmemoir,’ because ‘novel’ was confusing them, somebody somewhere havingdecided that a novel by law must be fiction. When I heard that Fantagraphics were doing an English language version I putmy dibs in early for a review copy. Since then, the editor and translator of the book has died, so that when I see his cool and intelligent touch all through it Iget a wistful feeling that I may not have had in other circumstances. This must be among Kim Thompson’s last contributions to the collective library of comics. The world of comics will miss him very much. It occurs to me that he would have been working on this when he wrote, in the context of a blogdiscussion to which I was also throwing in my two cents, “Even today, the fiction/autobio breakdown tilts far heavier toward autobio among womenthan men.” If Kim, as an editor and publisher, said it, then it would have to be Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life | The Comics Jo... od 423.10.2013. 20:14  true. I have this at the top of an otherwise empty document because I meant toexamine the statement closely to see if I could figure out why it should be so. Imay still try. In the meantime, it is a myskery, as Popeye would say.My first impression about the work when I sat down with it was that it washeavy going at 464 pages. And from an artist I wasn’t familiar with. But effort was rewarded. I found myself moved quite profoundly by the end, when the whole thing came together and revealed its shape. Then it was like a person who came to stay and I didn’t realize how much I was enjoying their company until after they’d left.The book works as a thing in its entirety, consistency being the governing virtue. I cannot point to a witty passage that expresses an idea just so, or alook, or the record of a place that reminds me of a visit or made me want to visit. It is not an easy thing to be consistent over so many pages, and a greatdeal of ground is covered in this book, from Austria all the way to Sicily, withall parts rendered with the simple but necessary authority.Being ‘on the road’ is the motivating factor in its machinery. Early on there arethe hazards of ill-considered cross-country shortcuts to avoid bordercheckpoints. Realizing that I have only ever lived in island states, this quiteintrigued me. A good book takes you somewhere, and if you haven’t been there before, all the better. Later there is the annoyance of being locked up in aforeign jail. At every stage of the way we know no more than the protagonist.Navigating the drawn universe of an artist helps this principle. We get no cluesfrom things glimpsed sideways. We know only what she shows us.The book has its invisible structure in mind from the start, and we’re surprisedto find elements of grand drama, though much disguised. There is danger, and betrayal. And also a sense of stepping unwittingly into the middle of important world events, but that the world is not as huge as one thought. The otherplayers in it, while they may appear to have taken it upon themselves to side with the forces of some kind of social or religious or other oppression, are aslost as anybody if they should ever choose to admit it.The title I take to be a no-confidence vote in the concept of tomorrow, whichmight be ironic since the style is forever finding hope and a passing joy indetails such as the way the author observes to her own healthy fleshiness. The back cover blurb helpfully leads us to believe it is a ‘coming of age novel.’ Whilethis cannot be said to be untrue, the term always leaves me with the feelingthat I just witnessed some ‘potted thinking.’ It implies a coming to terms withthe expectations of the adult world. The whole project, again, is at odds withthis. There’s a feeling that the protagonist would as soon set it, theconventional world, on fire, though the author may be more accommodating.There is a rejection of the organization of the world, from organized faith toorganized crime. It is about the pursuit of nihilism as a route to integrity. UlliLust has the intelligence to look at her life and make a book of it. Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life | The Comics Jo... od 423.10.2013. 20:14  Tweet  10 3 On the other hand the book is organized like a book, with chapters, and thatappendix at the end. Of the throng of people whom she passes or connects within this odyssey, only two are worthy of a positive mention in this appendix.One got a skull tattooed on his back. In fact he got Ulli to do it for him. Thestyle of it is unimportant, though of course Ulli has already made herself known to the people in the story, and those reading the book, as an artist. Anappendix in a comic is unlikely to be a repository of extra information. It’susually an “And you know what, out of all those people I just told you about…”like a movie that ends with an account just before the end credits of whathappened to all the characters after the final scene. It’s usually a transparent way of letting you know somebody got their just rewards. Preferring a spokenstyle, I would probably put it all in a rush to the last panel and just say out of all those people I told you about, this one succumbed to the world’s baloney and oddly, this other one was too innocent to ask the big question in the firstplace, this other guy gets top marks and I’ll tell you a secret because it’s all along time ago and I see now the things that are important all get reshuffled andrenamed and now I have a passport and buy a ticket instead of being one of those punk kids who always gets in through the slats of the fence withoutpaying. But everybody has their own way of doing things, and leaving thereader wanting to back into the book with fresh eyes is always good. FILED UNDER:  Ulli Lust 5 Responses to Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life Like46 Matthias Wivel   says:  Aug 19, 2013 at 9:54 AM Great review. The blurp Eddie takes issue with, I believe, is from my TCJ review of the German edition. His takeon it rings true. Reply Eric Reynolds   says:  Aug 19, 2013 at 3:41 PM That was wonderful, Eddie. Thank you.I traveled to Stockholm in 2010 (I think) to the Swedish SPX, where I met Ulli and she gave me her book. Icouldn’t read it, but it sure as hell looked impressive. I brought it back with me and suggested to Kim that hegive it a try. The last thing he needed in his workload was a reading assignment of 456 pages… in German. Herolled his eyes and reluctantly took it from me. A couple of weeks later he brought it back in and basically said, this is fantastic, we have to publish it, I’m goingto translate it. And we scheduled it for the first available season.That was Kim. He totally could have punted on the book because he already had like eight Tardi books, threeManara books, and so many other books lined up for translation. But he *had* to do this one, right now. And hedid. Reply Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life | The Comics Jo... od 423.10.2013. 20:14  The Comics Journal © Fantagraphics Books Inc. | 7563 Lake City Way NE | Seattle, WA 98115 | Order Toll-Free: 1-800-657-1100 | Outside USA: 206-524-1967FLOG! The Fantagraphics Blog | About Us | TCJ FAQ | Fantagraphics FAQ | Bookstore & Gallery | Contact Us | Shipping Info | Advertise | Info for Retailers Brian Moore   says:  Aug 26, 2013 at 12:28 PM Thanks for this, Eddie. And: I miss your blogging. (Though if it comes down to making books or blogging blogs,I know which one I’d rather cheer you on to do.) I’ve been strolling through your old posts lately and finding lotsof interesting and half-forgotten bits. Reply Scott Grammel   says:  Aug 26, 2013 at 2:20 PM  Well, I guess this piece puts to the lie the oft-suggested criticism that reviewers neglect discussing the art incomics because they have either a pro-literary bias or simply don’t have sufficient graphic knowledge. And I should add, once again, that having no interior illustrations accompanying such a review is ratherastounding on this website. Wivel’s post to his review does include some, thankfully. I found the graphic quality somewhat varied there, from barely proficient (the night-time action sequence) to above average (driving in thecar) to almost Push Pin Studios quality and style (the men in the bar, the series of street scenes). Does the artimprove over the course of the book? Which level of ability best characterizes the book? I dunno. Reply DBay    says:  Aug 27, 2013 at 5:26 AM This review doesn’t tell me much about the story and it tells me nothing about the art. Reply Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life | The Comics Jo... od 423.10.2013. 20:14
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