Oh, hello. I'm Meaghan O'Connell.
I live in Brooklyn and also here, on the internet, where I have been writing and reading since 2008. Here are some highlights.
I’ve never taken a step back from my life and said, “I need to spend more of my life sitting indoors reading books.” Instead I want to wake up earlier, to run more, to write more, to cook more, to go on dates, to see my friends more, to call my mom. All of these things make me feel like I am taking initiative and control of my life and my happiness and all other sorts of deluded things. The thing is though I do want to read more, but when I say that and am really meaning it, I mean that I want more to be transported and feel known and have my conception of how people move in the world expanded, or at least I want to put cracks in it, more. Reading is basically just the easiest way of doing that, and it’s very important to me. It buoys. And this year it kinda sucked.
Dustin stopped working at a bookstore halfway through the summer and I only like books that I pick out MYSELF and you see, there all these baby blogs out there of women talking about their lives in this hopeful, alien way, and sometimes great tragedies befall them and it’s all very compelling. Anyway I fear I’ve lost my mojo. I think my book-Saturn is returning. Something.
Luckily the good thing with the book thing still happened a few times, for which I’m very grateful. Here is what stopped me this year, what made things feel right and preordained or just were a great comfort/distraction:
The other day I was thinking I really wanted to buy some Docs. Then I remembered that I still had mine from high school, the last time they were cool. Complete with neon green laces.
My friend forwards me some of her Daily Kabbalah Tune-up emails and I love it.
The best/worst thing about Building Stories is that it added up to absolutely nothing. Sure, there are minor arcs, imposed narratives — you find out things, other things are resolved, but nothing beyond the petty dramas and frustrations and longings and nostalgia and regret, etc., of everyday life. Which is you know, the ultimate devastation (refusal of grandiosity, meaning). Well, at least to me.
I am new to comics and know pretty much nothing and no one besides the Fun Home, Persepolis, Maus stuff and really liking whenever they do comics on the Hairpin (ha! For real though). But something about comics (just, overall?) is really, specifically appealing. I won’t even pretend to be able to articulate it in the way it deserves, or to sum up an entire genre. But (OKAY FINE I WILL), it reminds me of poetry a bit, in a way, in the way it, er, spends more time with each thought. By its nature we spend more time with each sentence. There’s a picture there! Everything feels very deliberate, and therefore a little meditative. Important. And yet what we linger on and what we explore and what we see, are often sort of goofy looking little pictures. Not to diminish them! I can’t even begin to parse the artistic choices being made here or comment on a style and the way it subconsciously sets a tone or makes us feel this or that or how long it takes to be able to do something like this (a long fucking time, I imagine?). But — and especially with Chris Ware — the drawing itself feels very (for lack of a better word) vulnerable. Exposed in its… bare-boned-edness. There is not a lot to hide in here:
I goddamn hate this baby. It is so weird and pink and bold and takes up so much space (clearly) right here in the middle of this page. Why aren’t there more lines in it? Why does it look like a fucking image vector? It hurts to look at too long, and especially at night. I tried not to.
He said in this A+ Rookie interview that, “comics seemed (and still seem to me, actually) an unpretentious potential vessel for solitary authenticity.”
A refusal of pretentiousness. I think that’s what that baby is. Ugh it hurts to look at.
But anyway what I was getting at earlier was that I know nothing about comics and nothing really about Chris Ware (besides what I learned in that Rookie interview) except that his stuff is allegedly really, very SAD. “Devastating.” Sad Boys love it, blah blah. And you know, what I find sad and what sad boys find sad is usually very different. They’re easy targets — too easy. And their sadness usually seems very safe. [I dunno, that seems flip and irresponsible to say but fuck it, that’s not what this is about — this is about narrative!]
BUT THIS IS NOT SAFE.
Not because any of the plot points (if you can call them that. I mean one of the threads i a cartoon bee, so.) are remarkably sad: loneliness, creative frustration, body hatred. All fairly straightforward and clumsily, quickly told (Chris Ware in his writing also seems to refuse the slick reveal or the showing vs telling etc. More of a bumbler. Which might be the worst in prose but in comics works I guess.).
What feels so dangerous is that when I say it really adds up to nothing, I mean it. There are, if you haven’t read or seen things about this (Pierce’s post about it was what got me to finally throw down the $50), a bunch of different pamphlets and broadsides and little books and littler books and one big thing that folds out like a game board. When I read them I read them as they came out of the box. One after the other, without noticing what time it was. Dustin read half of it standing up over the coffee table, forgetting to sit down. You expect a certain degree of wonder & awe when you unwrap this thing (surely that’s half the point of it), but that wonder & awe is no less meaningful and genuine when it does come. It springs forth anyway. Like two kids at Christmas (give it to someone for Christmas, someone like me who usually cries in the shower that they can never recover the good Christmas feelings of their youth). And you shout out things about it to each other and pass bits along and the order gets mixed up and then you realize there actually is no order.
The characters repeat their stories at different moments, just like life. They bring up old boyfriends or revisit events (redrawn, too), and depending what order you read the pieces in, the backstory might have more or less meaning. You can reread things and suddenly think, “Oh so that guy was the guy who,” and it makes a little more sense (not that it didn’t make sense the first time), not unlike the way we learn things about people and everything clicks into place in retrospect. The stories balloon out and out and go back and sideways and you see them from different perspectives. All of this but not in a movie way. There is no narrator hovering above all this. Chris Ware is not there winking at us. You don’t finish the book and say, “Ah, this means ___.”
I genuinely kept waiting (and really, just, hoping) something would be revealed that would “make it all make sense”. The book is incredibly straightforward and pretty much makes sense the whole way through, but I wanted some sort of meta-commentary or some sort of reveal — something like, And surprise, this whole book was written by the baby the whole time! Or, like, we are on some other planet where the banal trivialities of our lives are stamped onto paper goods, or god fucking knows. But it never came! There was literally no end. And no start. Just some overlapping stories about really pretty boring and typical people’s lives — that was pretty interesting and fun to read! That’s it. And that is…horrifying. See: that’s what I want. I want Chris Ware to be like, “The point of this book is that there is no point. No linear narrative. And this was necessitated by the form of blah blah blah.” But no. I think it was just fun. A delight. Maybe the ultimate sign you’ve made it, too: your publisher lets you print a big fucking box of crap in a dozen different ways, and charges $50 for it. And people buy it. And that’s it! Our lives are small and mean a lot to us but don’t really have any bigger meaning, and that’s it. Noooooooo.
Oh, also, the 2nd most devastating part was (see above) the way this husband and wife duo is always looking at their computers and phones :(
I asked Dustin if he had any ideas about where to put these plants for Thanksgiving, since we are gonna have 8 people here, etc. he suggested we put them on the ground when it comes time to pull out the table and sit around it. I didnt say anything out loud, but in my head i laughed the laughs of a thousand men. Guess he doesn’t read the same blogs as I do, or realize the flowers/candles/tablecloth visions i have in my head, or know that, for the love of Christ, YOU SET THE TABLE THE DAY BEFORE.
I went to the dermatologist for the first time today, and am now one mole less…moly. A part of me that existed this morning no longer exists (or it does, but it’s in a lab somewhere, floating in water, extant), and I didn’t even have a warning (aside from, you know, hey, get that mole checked out.) I assumed I’d have time to think about it, to say my goodbyes. Maybe take a photo.
My mom has been “freaked out” about this mole for give or take two years, and dealing with this was one of my new year’s resolutions (2012: A BIG YEAR FOR ME!), so I texted her after to say, “are you happy, the mole is gone, consider it an early birthday present.” I figured it would make her feel powerful, like she could steal things from me all the way down in Florida. All she really wanted to know, though, was was she right. Literally her first reaction was, “So was I right?” I think she wants me to have skin cancer at this point, as vindication.
Anyway my arm hurts now. As in: actively. A part of me is missing! And I will also say that while you all should get a skin cancer screening at some point in your lives and I don’t want to discourage you, having a cute woman in a little red dress, a headband, and kitten heels inspect your SKIN (ie, everywhere, guys!) under the *least* flattering lights, is frankly very demoralizing. She just held up my pale, flabby arms and stared at them, quietly. I felt moved to apologize, on behalf of my complexion. She said, “And now let’s look at the chest,” and I just sort of sat there with my tits hanging out like…Hmm ok, yep, get a good look.” You know, when you go to the gyno it’s like, Okay, we will definitely be seeing your vagina. But this is some weird middle ground where it doesn’t seem like your tits are going to be out — she doesn’t have a stethoscope, there are granola bars in the waiting room (My first brush with fancy New York doctor world! So thrilling!) and ads for plastic surgery, and kitten heels, and then boom: she’s just passively scanning your tits. Not even squeezing. Just looking. Ugh. It’s sort of an insult! And then of course the best part was yet to come: “the buttocks.” God help us all. And I hesitate to bring this up, but I kept my underwear on for this (!!!). I still am wondering if that was a mistake, if I violated some skin cancer screening code (no one told me!) by keeping my underwear on. The technician guy (YES GUY UGH) handed me a robe and told me to put it on and didn’t say anything else, so I figured I wouldn’t go for the gold without some deliberate instructions. Which led me to the point where I was standing in this cold office with a cute woman in a headband saying, “And now I’m going to check the buttocks” and then, I swear to god, pulling down my fucking underwear and looking, silently, at my butt.
Far more painful than getting a mole removed, which I might add, was not fun.
Almost as painful as when the male tech said, “If you don’t mind me asking, when was your last menstrual period?”
"Um…it’s now. Ha!?"
"Okay, so, then your last one was about a month ago, right?"
Are you allowed to go to the dermatologist on your period? I still don’t know. But I did very quickly yell, “NO!” when she asked me if I had any moles in “the groin area.” I’ve never been so happy to have someone take me at my word.
I’m not saying skin cancer seems like a barrel of monkeys or anything, but i’m not not saying it, ok? Jk Jk, wear sunscreen! Slice off your moles with a box cutter! (that’s basically what happened to me today.) You’ll get out of doing the dishes!
Tomorrow Magazine is now online: tomorrowthemag.com
I haven’t read all of it yet, but I have read most of it, and it’s really great! This story in particular has stuck with me / is something I tried to recount in full over dinner (the truest test): http://www.tomorrowthemag.com/articles/the-waiting-is-the-hardest-part
Our pumpkin really sums it up this year.