Something New: frank, comedic, romantic memoir of a wedding in comic form
Lucy Knisley is a favorite around these parts, a comics creator whose funny, insightful, acerbic and disarmingly frank memoirs in graphic novel form have won her accolades and admiration from across the field. With her latest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, Knisley invites us into her wedding, her love life, her relationship with her mother, and an adventure that's one part Martha Stewart, one part French farce comedy.
Knisley's relationship with her now-husband John was hardly the stuff of fairy tales. The book's opening takes us through their years together, their years apart, and their slow recognition that they were meant for one another and should make another go of it. Along the way, we learn about Knisley's romantic life from her earliest years on, her bisexuality, her bad Internet dates, her heartbreaks and reconciliations.
Once Knisley reconciles with John, the clock starts counting down to her marriage -- and her discovery of what it means to be a bride in the twenty first century, especially when you're a queer, feminist, DIY sort of person with a deep suspicion of traditional gender roles, capitalism, and your mother's convictions about how your marriage should run.
Weddings are always fraught. There's the guest-list and the venue, the clothes and the menu, the music and the wedding party, and, if you're getting married today, there's the surveillance capitalism swarm of bridal advertising that follows you around the Web from the second you change your Facebook status to "engaged," which is a highly bid-after advertising criterion. Give them to me when they say "Yes" and I will have them until their honeymoon, goes the theory.
What separates Knisley's story from all the other weddings is her retrospective thoughtfulness about what she went through, her self-confronting honesty, her charming and emotionally charged illustrations, and the flourishes she tosses in, from the average cost of an engagement ring (and what to do if that number sickens you) to expositions of the nuptial superstitions of world cultures through history.
Knisley is a lot more thoughtful about weddings than I ever was. My wedding was amazing: married in the castle in Toronto where Scott Pilgrim fights Lucas in Book 2, by a conjurer in Templar robes who recited Jabberwocky in lieu of a sermon and made our rings -- cipher wheels designed by Bruce Schneier and made by Rudy Rucker's daughter Isabel -- appear in gouts of flame. We married just before Halloween and filled the hall with jack-o-lanterns carved by our guests the day before and clocks loaned to us by the mad steampunk sculptor Roger Wood. There was a lightning storm and a swing band that played an uptempo version of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" as our wedding march. I vowed not to fork new instances of myself without permission and promised to grow old together on the Moon.
All that said, Knisley's ideas about what a wedding is and what it's for and who it's for is a lot more considered than I've ever been about these things. She's not just more romantic than I am, but in a weird way, more pragmatic. Also: way more intense. Her frenzy of crafting, DIY and making in the run-up to the wedding made me exhausted just to read about it -- but again, that self-awareness of the nutsiness of it all (and her frank post-mortems on these project) are the difference between the insufferability of Martha Stewart and the charm of a Maker Faire.
Knisley is a wonderful creator and artist, and someone who clearly was made to be married. This book is as sweetly romantic as it is manically comedic.
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride [Lucy Knisley/First Second]
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