As I’ve been following ND Stevenson for years through his tumblr, I am very familiar with his yearly reports. At the end of each year he would lay himself bare before his audience, emotionally unfurling himself through his sequential art to his readers. Some entries were longer than others, some were more terse than others, while some were heartbreakingly earnest and honest.

While it’s one thing to read them in real-time — year after year with the distance of hundreds of days in-between — it’s another thing to read them one-after-another in a single collection. Said collection? THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT: A MEMOIR IN PICTURES.

I won’t mince words here: I’m old. In all likelihood, I’ve already tripped over the halfway point of my life. However, this memoir covering the adventures of a late teen to twenty-something creator endlessly resonates more and more every time I read it.

With THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT (FIRE from here on out), Stevenson details the trials, tribulations, and difficulties of discovering and reckoning with one’s self. We watch as he goes from girly churchgoer to an Eisner award-winner for a techno-fantasy about a shapeshifting gremlin of a girl, embracing their queerness, showing weakness and vulnerability, and ultimately finding their place in society and settling into willful tranquility.

It’s an epic graphic work, one that speaks just as much with panels as it does with the space left between them. (If you aren’t aware, that’s traditionally known as a ‘gutter’, but with Stevenson it’s more like troughs.) Nakedly honest and unflinching, it’s a memoir like no other; introspection peppered with grand achievements the likes of which he — or few of us — ever imagine.

Again, I’m far older than Stevenson, but his message of opening up to people, to finding your crowd, to reckon with who you are and what you want is ageless. Stevenson skirts the issue of therapy — he does briefly discuss being bipolar early on in the memoir, and he closes noting that he finally entered therapy and reluctantly embraced meds — but, as with Julia Wertz’s IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE, both come to the same conclusion that standing with others helps the most. That facet is something I’ve come to embrace over the past few years that I’ve been in therapy.

If you’ve previously read my words, it probably comes as no surprise that this blog — to use the outmoded term — is often my own sort of memoir. Several years ago I had a number of interactions where I realized the friends around me had no fucking clue who I really was. They had no idea of my past history, no clue about my inner life, no knowledge about any of the weird shit I’ve endured, and especially didn’t realize just how severely fucked up I am.

I realized I had buried most of my past. It was something not to be seen. Every once in a while I’d let loose with it — a piece I wrote for my now-defunct games criticism site that went viral was overtly self-reflective. Offhand remarks to friends that often resulted in shocked looks. However, those have been exceptions. This site has been a way to passively address that, to tell my own story, albeit in a way that I hope doesn’t feel like it’s an exercise in self-indulgence or nosedives into ‘too much information’.

There’s so much in FIRE that I can’t help but relate to. From an obsessive, myopic approach to work, to burnout, to feeling broken, to guilt and debilitating depression and wild upswings, to fully and completely reckon with one’s self; there’s a lot of harsh realities laid bare here. I am still somewhat shocked that publisher HarperCollins read his tumblr and thought: “Yes, this is a viable piece of entertainment content” because it feels so intimate. It is so very much of a certain over-sharing internet age that to put it into print almost feels sacrilegious, but I’m very happy they did so.

I first read FIRE as a collected work in 2020, right before I dove into some pretty intense therapy. (Fun fact: it’s only become more intense!) Upon rereading it three years later, I was shocked to read how many terms he used that mirrored my own, both with my partner as well as my mental health professionals. He uses terms that encompass feelings of guilt, of responsibility, of exhaustion, of frustration, of self-loathing.

FIRE isn’t a fictional work; it doesn’t wrap itself up into a nice, neat bow. It is a portrait of a life lived, a life learned, a life changed by experience and self-reflection and self-examination.

Upon my reread, I’ve found that his journey resonates louder than before. This isn’t a pandemic thing; it’s simply a matter of coming to terms with who the fuck you are and how you want to present yourself and endure the outside world.

I realize I’m privileged enough to live in a part of Chicago that doesn’t think twice about someone who paints themself up. No one here gives two shits about your gender identity or your pronouns; most folks just roll with it. I reside in a land of ostracized people; an area of living misfit toys.

In-between my initial read of FIRE and my reread I was diagnosed as bipolar, as well as suffering from acute anxiety and PTSD and dissociative disorder. Additionally, I came out as pansexual to a few folks. (I guess a few more folks now, if you’re reading this. Yes, I’m trying to come to terms with this.) Do I realize that pansexual is the lowest rung on the ladder of queerness? Yes, yes I do. Do I care? No, no I do not. (That is a lie. I actually do care, but I’m trying my damnedest to not.) Does it externally affect anything about me, considering I’m a white male-presenting monogamous person married to a woman? No, it does not. However, like with Stevenson, it does require a lot of internal re-centering and a lot of recalibration and reflection. As a consequence, I’ve physically leaned a lot into what makes me “me”.

We’re all just beings, living on the fumes of whatever societal and artistic and physical means we can. We want and want and want. We want to be heard, we want to be embraced, we want to be seen for who we are, but often settle for being seen for who we think others want us to be.

I’m happy that Stevenson figured that out earlier in their life than I did, but I’m also happy that I finally made some sort of peace with myself. The fire never goes out but, as Stevenson notes with hopefulness: You can “control your fire so that it warms instead of destroys.” I thank him for instilling that comfort.

You can — and should — get your own copy via Bookshop.


Stevenson currently has a Substack and officially labels himself as bigender and you should definitely subscribe to it.

I’d like to call your attention to The New Yorker review of FIRE, which I discovered after penning the final draft of this post. We’re very much on the same page, although Stephanie Burt is far more eloquent and exacting and less navel-gazing than myself.

Lastly, Tasha Robinson’s write-up for Polygon is well worth reading, as she dials in on a lot of what resonates about his work.

ND Stevenson

This (slightly short) week has been a long time coming. ND Stevenson is an astounding craftsman and creative artist and writer, and I’ve loved everything he has penned and willed into the world, even though I haven’t been able to read or watch all of their works.

The works I have imbibed have deeply affected me, hence this week.

If you aren’t familiar with his pieces, I hope this provides the impetus to do so. If you are? I hope you revisit them, as my revisiting cast a significantly different light.

Welcome to ND Stevenson week.


MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE is and it isn’t exactly what it says on the front cover. Yes, it’s a collection of 48 essays — some shorter than others — helmed by Christian Ackerman about memorable horror films from the eyes of those who are horror industry insiders.

That said: every. single. one. of these films are films they watched as youths.

These are all tales of pre-teen or teen experience, and there’s a surprising number of overlap. While HALLOWEEN, THE EXORCIST, Romero’s original DEAD trilogy, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are all represented multiple times, there are a handful of lesser-known films in there, such as the MST3k-featured classic DEVIL DOLL and THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Also, JAWS — not necessarily a film one thinks of as a horror classic but more of a thriller — repeatedly pops up.

These are all films that spurred an infatuation with horror in their pre-teen brains, films that would lead them towards a career in what is arguably one of the most unfairly least-respected genres.

Some essays are more astute and passionate than others, especially a paean to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, while others feel almost perfunctory and penned out of obligation. There’s one essay that I will not name that is very obviously the author trolling the audience in a very distasteful way.

While reading this, I was wondering what my favorite horror film would be. Unlike everyone else in this collection, I didn’t latch onto modern horror until my mid/late teens, and even then they were not exactly the films you’d expect: GOTHIC, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, GINGER SNAPS, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, etc. That said, I was and still am a devoted Universal horror fan, especially of James Whale’s work.

However, while I have a handful of rotating favorite dramatic films ever which include Kieslowski’s BLUE and Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (arguably a horror film), I simply can’t choose a favorite horror film. Perhaps THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Maybe TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Possibly GREMLINS 2, or another sequel: FINAL DESTINATION 2. Tempted to note NIGHT OF THE COMET. However, none of these films — apart from perhaps FIRE WALK WITH ME — had the seismic impact that these essayists felt when watching their favorite horror movie.

Consequently, I feel like I’m missing out a bit. Even though I am a hardcore horror fan, I came about the genre late-in-life. Also? For many personal reasons, I am not a fan of slashers, which consist of most of the creatives’ selections. And that’s fine! Horror is a surprisingly personal genre — hence this collection — and the fear these works instill hit different people in different ways. (For example: see MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS as well as the collection of essays in LAURA’S GHOST.)

I will note that one major recurring theme throughout these essays is how much these horror creatives and fans appreciate humor in their works. From THE EVIL DEAD to CREEPSHOW to PUPPET MASTER, folks love laughs with their thrills. Why shouldn’t they? Every great work — horror or otherwise — leans on humor and jokes to take a bit of the sting out of all of the shit that is going on around them. It may consist of slapstick, absurd situations, or barbed quips, but every piece should make you laugh at least once.

Yes, this is a qualified recommendation. The insiders are pretty tightly-knit — there are a lot of folks who have been involved with FANGORIA and you see a lot of the same production credits as you go through the work — but almost everyone’s heart here is in the right place, and their effusive love for their favorite films is absolutely infectious. I’ll never tire of hearing people pontificate about what they love and why they love it, and MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE certainly exemplifies that sort of glee.

MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE Vol. 1 is available here, and there are two more volumes, of which I’m sure I’ll get to sooner rather than later.


Traditionally for my birthday I go to a local bookstore and buy myself a mess of books. I didn’t do so this year because of reasons but last year I was floating down the very stacked aisles of Ravenswood Used Books and Elizabeth Strout’s AMY AND ISABELLE caught my eye.

Given that I loved OLIVE KITTERIDGE and THE BURGESS BOYS, I nabbed it, and it sat on my ‘to read’ shelf for about a year. I didn’t realize that it was Strout’s debut novel. All that mattered was it was penned by her, and she has a certain sensitivity and New England sensibility that is catnip to me.

I usually prefer to go into books blind, especially from authors that have penned works I appreciate but, for whatever reason, this time I read the back cover copy. I won’t quote it, but it gave the impression of a late 1960’s staid mother (Isabelle) pushing against a burgeoning teen daughter (Amy) leaning into a queer life.

I was gravely wrong. This is a work about how men abuse anyone they can.

AMY AND ISABELLE is a slice of life about living in a turning point of America, of women being in the workfield, of being mothers to daughters, of daughters taxing their mothers, and simply just trying to endure their hardships, to live the life they’re handed, the life handed down to them. I know that description sounds too vague, too nebulous, but I can’t describe it any other way.

Thirty pages in, I could already see Amy’s trajectory. Fifty pages in, I was telling myself: “You really should not be reading this. You know this hits too close to home for you.” One hundred pages in, I asked myself: “Why the fuck do you persist in reading this?” It came to a head around page 118. I was reading this one chapter on a bus after returning from a rather stressful cross-state trip. I read the words, read Strout detailing how the daughter Amy was taken advantage of, and my fingers curled, gnarled around the cover and pages. I tried to keep reading, but instead thrust it into my bag. If I were at home, reading it while rocking in my chair on the porch, I would have thrown it to the ground; not out of disgust, but because it cut too close to the quick.

It’s the mark of a great author that can recreate traumatic scenarios that, to others, may seem endearing, but also to those who have lived through these experiences, rather harrowing. That’s what Strout manages here, in a way I’ve never read before.

That said, I fucking hated it. I hated reliving it through her words.

With texts, you can sit with words. You can put the forward momentum on pause. If it’s a positive piece of prose, you can revel in it. If it’s a negative piece of prose, you can either beat yourself up about it, or curse the creator.

When you’re dealing with something that you wish you’d never read? You do not want to read further, but you can’t put the full piece on pause; the unwanted part resonates in your mind.

I kept going, just like I keep living.

Amy and Isabelle endure, just like the luckiest of us, but both are left haunted. This is a brutal gut-punch of a novel, something I was not expecting, something I didn’t want, but it resonates so loudly.

I write far too much about how artistic works emotionally impact me, I know, but I will never, ever apologize for it. That’s what works like AMY AND ISABELLE do; they affect those who feel seen, but also impart a worldview to those who haven’t lived those experiences, and to help placate those who have, even if they can’t forget.

ENTITLED: Life Isn’t Easy, When You’re a Book

Whenever I travel, I always make it a point to pop into a bookstore — hopefully a used bookstore — and buy a paperback. It’s the perfect souvenir: they’re light (hence paperback versus hardcover) so you don’t have to worry about it taking too much space or weight, and I always remember when and where I buy a book. Simply looking at the cover will cause me to reminisce. I also have the added bonus of …well, a new-to-me book. Sometime it’s even signed!

Cookie Boyle’s debut novel ENTITLED encapsulates the feeling of discovering the world through books and travel. At first blush it reads like ‘Toy Story for book nerds’ and, well, yes, that’s a succinct pitch, but ENTITLED is so much more than that.

ENTITLED does anthropomorphize books. They can talk to each — taking on the affect and disposition of authorial intent — and they even have very limited mobility. They can toss themselves off of shelves and unfurl their pages. When read, they actively impart their words upon their Reader. (Please note: I’ll be using ENTITLED’s use of capitalizing labels from here on, including: Book, Reader, Writer, and Author.)

There’s also a sex scene between two books. That’s a sentence I never expected to write, but the scene is pretty fantastic, as is the emotional fallout.

The protagonist of ENTITLED is a book entitled THE SERENDIPITY OF SNOW (SNOW from here on out), penned by Tessa MacDonald. It’s about a 19th century Minnesotan woman who escapes her abusive husband and embarks on a new independent life.

As you might imagine, this copy of SNOW that seems to go by she/her — it seems the books go by the pronouns of their author or protagonist, although that part is left rather nebulous — traverses the world. She first starts in a bookstore in San Francisco, then is purchased by a Parisian woman who wants to improve her English language skills because she’s fallen for an American while visiting California for a few months. Then SNOW ends up in the hands of as Londoner — trust me, these locales are on the cover so I’m not spoiling anything — who is an aspiring writer, and then is inspired by SNOW (and other circumstances) to push SNOW forward.

I’ll refrain from describing the rest, but I will note that as someone who absolutely loves overanalyzing adaptations, this book hit every one of my quadrants.

ENTITLED easily could have coasted along on its premise alone — just books talking to other books through a myriad of locales, hoping to find a home or, better yet, to finally meet their Author (yes, their God/Goddess) but instead it’s an endearing work to all of those who literally feel for books. Instead, it’s a surprisingly uplifting epic that, while certainly indulges the literary nerds out there, is also emotionally resonant for those who aren’t as fond of physically handling or cracking open books.

As the hoary adage goes: do not judge a book by its cover. Give each book a chance.


I’ll note that my wife bought this for me, rightfully thinking that it seemed like it fit in my wheelhouse. She also bought me a used copy, without realizing the significance of that, of how SNOW travels from hand-to-hand, shelf-to-shelf, as we as people all often do with relationships.

The books in this world fear being scarred, either by dog drool or teeth, by coffee stains, by wine or water. They feel bruised when tossed into a satchel or when dropped from a table. Given that I was reading a used copy, this affectation made me hurt a bit, as I’ve always taken pride in having well-worn books. To me, a well-worn book means a well-appreciated work. A paperback with a pristine spine essentially declares that it’s a book unread, but yet in this world, the action of breaking the spine to read further is painful to them, and not in a pleasant way.

The dichotomy of wanting to be read, but not being damaged by being read, is a fascinating facet of this novel to me, and one that I don’t feel it quite reconciles. Perhaps upon re-reading it, I’ll discover more. (Although that’d require more bending of the spine, sadly.)


My wife and I have a running joke — or as she puts it: a running conversation — that we’ve maintained for years. To set up the joke: I’m a 6’ 2” male-presenting person, which is practically the perfect height for someone like me. It’s tall enough that most people will refer to you as ‘tall’. People often have to look up at you to hold a conversation. On the other hand, you aren’t so tall that you’re bumping your head on lighting fixtures or doorways. Like I said: the perfect height.

My wife, while taller than average, is shorter than I am. However, she mock-refuses to embrace the fact, even when I have to reach for something on her behalf. She insists that she is so tall, taller than I am. Truth be told, in many ways she is, just not physically.

It’s not a good joke, but like with many relationships, it’s part of our history and something we find to be cute (even if no one else does).

The protagonist in Fay Weldon’s THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL (SHE-DEVIL going forward) is Ruth, a 6’ 2” woman who, given the nature of a world built around men, does not fit because the world expects women to adhere to a specific mould. She is deemed too tall, too gangly, too plain — she has four moles on her face, three of which sprout hairs — and is simply too much for society to bear. She is married to an accountant named Bobbo, to whom she births two children — Nicola and Andy — after which Bobbo quickly loses interest in Ruth, ultimately leaving her for one of his clients: Anne Fisher, a romance novelist, who literally is a beacon of light for Bobbo, living in a repurposed lighthouse.

Upon being scorned, Ruth sheds her house, her children, and begins a new life that includes ruining the people and systems that brought her misery, all while literally reshaping herself into the physical shape that society will embrace.

While it’s tempting to consider SHE-DEVIL as a vengeance tale — and yes, there’s definitely a lot of vengeance being sown here — Weldon noted that it’s more of a tale of envy. That much is undeniable, as Ruth uses her wiles and smarts and coercive abilities to shine a light on male oppressors, corrupting them while also using them to turn herself into the visage of someone who will be embraced by a patriarchal society, even if it means enduring endless indignities, pain, and suffering to become the image of someone the world accepts.

Yes, there’s that undercurrent of envy, of wanting to be the perfect woman who can get by without friction in a man’s world, but it’s executed in a way that subverts each-and-every column of said world; from religion to science to the medicinal. Ruth considers herself a she-devil — a fallen woman — and while men would consider her to be a villain, she’s doing a hero’s work, even as she castigates herself to do so, to an extent that becomes body horror.

SHE-DEVIL is a very complex work, and I’m somewhat shocked that it’s mostly been forgotten. (I’ll note that there was a BBC mini-series adaptation of it in the mid-80s, and there was a late-80s film version starring Roseanne Barr — both of which I’ll address in future posts.)

Sadly, Weldon passed away earlier this year at the age of 91, leaving behind a great number of feminist novels, so if you want to remember her in the best way possible, pick up a few and start turning those pages.

HEX (2020)

RachelSimons is dead.

Rachel was accidentally poisoned by her own hand as part of her botanic poison research and using herself as a test subject. Consequently, her death leads to the dissolution of her research department, including protagonist Nell Barber. Nell becomes obsessed with continuing Rachel’s research, which includes cultivating monkshood and castor beans, while still being infatuated with her mentor Joan, an older, prickly academic married to a bloated, gregarious man named Barry. When Nell isn’t spending her time mooning over her research or Joan, she hangs with her beautiful best friend Misha and shittalks about her gorgeous-but-vapid ex Tom.

In other words: There’s a lot of academic incest going on.

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight’s second novel HEX examines the fallout of Rachel’s death with brilliantly inventive prose that ducks and weaves through the lives of five individuals as they all desperately flail around seeking some sort of comfort, if not in their studies, then in each others arms.

It is very tempting to call HEX a botanist version of THE SECRET GARDEN as the two share a lot in common: both circle around a dead body, academia, and a severely dysfunctional group of high-minded adult students and scholars that are absolutely the worst for each other. However, unlike THE SECRET GARDEN, you don’t get the same sense of family camaraderie. From the get-go, there’s an immediate friction between everyone, and there’s a lot of toxic interplay and back-biting.

Initially I balked at writing this recommendation, solely because Dinerstein Knight’s prose is so inventive, so evocative that her words easily trounce whichever words I would utilize to pen this piece. She’s that good, and any attempts on my behalf to try to convey that would be — well, are — middling at best.

However, it’s too good to refrain from recommending as the construction of Nell’s interior thoughts are so delicious, and the tension between their fraught clique is so familiar but also very heightened, and the slow-burn is expertly doled out. It’s a wild ride, and one worth signing up for.

HEX can be purchased via Bookshop.


I haven’t covered the entirety of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — in fact, I only wrote about the third — and I kind of expected to leave it at that, as while each novel is remarkable, the first three are rather remarkable in the same way: they’re all about the push-and-pull between two friends growing up together in Naples and their power dynamics and their multi-faceted journeys through life.

Consequently, I didn’t expect the final novel in the series — THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY — to stray much from the path, and I certainly didn’t expect to be penning this, but here we are.

THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY escalates matters far more than the prior novels. Time passes rapidly. Lenù and Lila age significantly. The undercurrent of the mafia bubbles up to the surface. Technology becomes foregrounded. Families are ripped asunder. Stagnation sets in for some, while others find solace in wildness.

This is a true epic of lives lived, and as always Ferrante deftly handles it bluntly, but also artfully. Ferrante’s prose is so succinct and exacting; she is so dialed into the inner voice of Lenù that you feel like you’re inhabiting her as the scales fall from her eyes.

While I feel that Ferrante could have drawn all of this out further, going more in-depth about Lenù and Lila as they navigate their older years, this seems like a fittingly spry end to their tale. It’s satisfying, poignant, melancholy, and often even angry. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of the Neapolitan novels.


I’ve penned this many a time before, and I think some don’t believe me but: I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and now is yet another one of those times.

(I’ll note: I’m still working my way through a lot of Harley works, so I may get a few facts or matters wrong. Please bear with me — there’s only so much time in the day!)

A CALL TO ARMS is the fourth collection of Amanda Conner and spouse Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on the second HARLEY QUINN monthly series, the first of which I previously posted about. Have I read the second or third volumes? No, because they weren’t available at the comic book store after I attended Chicago’s Pride parade and wanted to treat myself. Also: it doesn’t really matter because, well, comics are fluid like that.

In this collection, Harley is mostly in charge of a bunch of other variant Harleys, all of which have very uninspired names. (Harvey Quinn, for example.) However, it is very endearing and the final reveal for a cluster of her members is quite something.

One caveat: Conner is no longer on pencil duty and it suffers for that, because while Conner does have a certain flair for cheesecake, not every panel of hers was reveling in T&A, as opposed to some of the art in this collection. I’ll note: I have nothing against cheesecake or pin-up works or anything like that! However, when every fucking panel is constructed around Harley/Ivy/Catwoman taking on absurd contortions to revel in a perky breast or bountiful ass, it does a disservice to the characters and story. It’s not like that with every artist in the collection, but it is very overt at times.

Way back in college, many years ago, I was taking a post-graduate-level film theory course. My undergrad film history teacher suggested it for me and got me in. One day, the topic of the male gaze came up. Being a young punk who knew very little of the world or gender studies — again, at this point I’m a very young, dumb undergrad — I bristled against that idea.

After the class let out, one of the older classmates approached me. She said to me — not judgmentally or with malice — “The male gaze absolutely exists.” We discussed it a bit, but I mostly held my ground because at that time I was a self-righteous idiot.

I think about that exchange a lot, because obviously: I was absolutely and totally wrong, and I wish I could go back and correct how I dealt with those exchanges. It does exist, and it certainly exists in this work which is a shame because most of the artwork in the Harley Quinn comic collections I’ve read have not been like that. But, hey, I guess that’s part of the baggage that comes with reading comics.

Apologies for the digression! Apart from that, it’s a fine and funny and intriguing take on the characters that does a great job creating a broader ensemble. As usual with Conner and Palmiotti’s work, it’s fast, energetic, and hilarious, and well-worth your time.


Julia Wertz is an amazing indie cartoonist and she embraces all that entails. (I recently wrote about her prior major work TENEMENTS, TOWERS & TRASH, which I hauled to NYC with me on my last trip to that amazing shit-smelling, rodent-infested, culturally vibrant city.) She overshares, imparting gross parts of one’s life that’s rarely described elsewhere, but is also very earnest and sincere and honest and heartfelt, even if that means showcasing her troubled mental underbelly.

The rawness of indie comics is something that simply can’t be recreated in other mediums, partially because of the scribbles and sketching and personal lettering, but just … there’s an intimacy when you read a comic or graphic novel. You push it up to your face, almost like you’re hugging it. It’s not like a film, which is projected quite a ways away from you. It’s not like a novel, where scrutinizing the font will not bring any sort of further elucidation, whereas with a comic or illustrative work, drawing it closer to your eyes may bring everything into focus.

Wertz has been through a lot — self-admittedly by her own hand — and she’s put so much of herself out there, and it’s so artfully done.

(I’ll note that I pre-ordered this book some time ago, forgot that I pre-ordered it, then ordered it again and she notified me asking: “Are you sure you want another copy?” How many other creatives would do that?)

So yeah, I’ll always be in her corner.

IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE — the full title is IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE: A COMPLETELY AVERAGE RECOVERY STORY — is quite the epic as it’s over 300 pages long and spans quite a bit of time and change. It still contains Wertz’s immaculate architectural reproductions, but also retains her expressive cartoon roots. When I was reading it, I’d gawk at the street in one panel, then laugh at the exaggerated simplicity of her comic self throwing her arms up in the air. It’s a perfectly calibrated work.

On a side note, with IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE, Wertz does an incredible job of underscoring the importance of human interaction and communication when you’re struggling. As she’s a very witty, sardonic person, it’s all handled with both the levity and gravitas it deserves, while also not shying away from how difficult that can be. Obviously I haven’t lived Wertz’s life but, when dealing with my own problems, I found that the solutions that helped her get sober mirrored my attempts to deal with my mental issues.

In other words: do not be afraid to reach out to people. Do not be so proud or scared. I know that’s easier said than done — I’ve been there. However, so many folks are either hurting or hiding their hurt or have made a sort of temporary peace with it, or they simply suffer with it. When they hear that you are in need, most will lend an ear or shoulder or both, or they may even ask for your ear or shoulder. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, you’re making yourself vulnerable. In the long run, it’s worth it. You will find folks you can rely on; well-wishing folks who will have your back and folks you can earnestly and honestly talk to without (mostly) feeling judged. You are not alone, but you do have to make the effort to not be alone. You have to do the work.

You can pick up a copy of IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE via Bookshop: