Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

Imagine Wanting Only This

A gorgeous graphic memoir about loss, love, and confronting griefWhen Kristen Radtke was in college, the sudden death of a beloved uncle and the sight of an abandoned mining town after his funeral marked the beginning moments of a lifelong fascination with ruins and with people and places left behind. Over time, this fascination deepened until it triggered a journey around...

Title:Imagine Wanting Only This
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1101870834
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:278 pages

Imagine Wanting Only This Reviews

  • Donna

    If this quote from the book is true, then the author is guilty of this crime, both when speaking as the main character in this book and as its writer and illustrator. Because this book was on the edge of becoming something beautiful if only the author had gone further, beyond honesty to the truth. Maybe that sounds odd since shouldn't honesty and the truth be one and the same? Not necessarily. Honesty comes from an individual and is colored

    If this quote from the book is true, then the author is guilty of this crime, both when speaking as the main character in this book and as its writer and illustrator. Because this book was on the edge of becoming something beautiful if only the author had gone further, beyond honesty to the truth. Maybe that sounds odd since shouldn't honesty and the truth be one and the same? Not necessarily. Honesty comes from an individual and is colored by his viewpoint, whereas the truth is more universal and objective. But enough of semantics and philosophy for now. Here's what I thought of this graphic novel.

    It contained a melancholy and poetic story of loss, both its inevitability and the need to understand how to live with it. The illustrations were masterful, black and white drawings with every shade of gray in between, nearly photorealistic, at times. At other times, the author/illustrator blended comic book style art with real photos that were aged. This accomplished a layering of what was real with what was unreal, same as the story.

    I read this book mostly in one sitting, not because it was a page turner so much as the fact that I needed to follow the journey the author had laid out to see where it led, with me hoping it would be to a place that was somewhere brighter and more comforting than where it began. But my heart sank when I came to realize this was not the author's intent. What she has created here with her memoir in graphic novel form is a memento mori, a reflection on mortality, the impermanence of life and its pursuits and of all that we touch along the way. Not a cheery thing to contemplate, especially when the author failed to go beyond this level to discover what is permanent in life, such as the effects we can have on one another. We are mortal and transient, but we live on in spirit and we often influence those we have touched, even as cities crumble around us or are buried or rot and property is destroyed, and people are done in by violence, disasters, and wars, or the fragility of their own bodies. It's not the skyscrapers that we build which are important, but the relationships that we build.

    How I wished to see some enlightenment in this book along those terms instead of everything balanced against it. People, however briefly they pass through our lives, can be a fulcrum to help lift what seems an impossible weight, and we can return the favor to help lift the burdens they carry. But the author as the main character here avoids these ideas, just as she avoids feeling connected, perhaps to avoid loss, and is ironically burdened by loss because of it.

    But there is a reason for all the moroseness in this book. Based on the author's life up until around the time she was in her mid-twenties, this book begins when she was a young girl and forming a strong relationship with her uncle Dan who like many in their family suffered from a congenital heart abnormality that often proved fatal early on, even with treatment. Dan was more than a warm and loving uncle to Kristen. He was her friend and someone to be admired for his upbeat outlook, despite a serious health condition that could claim him at any time. And it did claim him when he was only in his thirties, his death having a profound affect on Kristen and her life choices. It also began her fascination with places left in ruins around the world. She left everything behind to document them, hoping to find answers about life and how to live with a possible ticking time bomb in her own body. But did she find answers or more questions?

    I don't quite know what to take away from this book. It made my heart heavy for the author if she truly felt this way. Why do anything, why build anything, physically or emotionally, if nothing is permanent and will turn to dust, no one remembering us in due time? This book gave no answers to any of this. What I took away from it was a sense of giving up, which floors me since the author's Uncle Dan never did. Perhaps a book on his life would have been more productive. Still, the author was honest in presenting what she felt at the time. In this day and age, honesty is of great value, so for this and her skillful illustrations, I applaud her and rate this book four stars. It sure is sad, though. Beware.

  • Vincent Scarpa

    Edit/update: my interview with Kristen for

    :

    Sundered by the sudden passing of a cherished uncle — his death the result of an inscrutable and genetically inherited heart defect — Radtke develops an acute awareness of impermanence twinned with an interest in the ways in which abstractions like decay, rot, and ruin are made actual in deserted cities and abandoned mining towns.

    adumbrates Radtke’s literal expedition

    Edit/update: my interview with Kristen for

    :

    Sundered by the sudden passing of a cherished uncle — his death the result of an inscrutable and genetically inherited heart defect — Radtke develops an acute awareness of impermanence twinned with an interest in the ways in which abstractions like decay, rot, and ruin are made actual in deserted cities and abandoned mining towns.

    adumbrates Radtke’s literal expeditions — from the once thriving and now eerily deteriorating Gary, Indiana to the kinder side of a village in Iceland, the other side of which remains buried by volcanic ash — while concurrently allowing the reader to witness the crossings and passages and navigations Radtke herself is making in her pilgrimage toward a place where she might reach an understanding of what is and is not reconstitutable in one short life. Kristen Radtke is a thrilling cartographer of curiosity, grief, and grace, and Imagine Wanting Only This announces, like a siren in a sleeping city, the arrival of an unforgettable, undeniable talent.

  • Kyle Minor

    My favorite book of 2017 so far. A must-read for fans of Adrian Tomine, Danica Novgorodoff, Craig Thompson, Daniel Clowes, etc.

  • Divine-Asia

    I went into this with too much expectation and excitement. I thought it was going to be a visually beautiful memoir and it was but it was also empty. The author is obsessed with ruin and decay and tells us nothing else. I walk away with the feeling she has nothing to say but wrote a book anyway with interesting graphics to fill in the gaps.

  • Gabrielle

    I was expecting something introspective, but not this blatantly pretentious. I really appreciate the pacing, the carefully chosen bits of life Radtke shows, balancing the mundane with the profound quite well, but there's not much you can do when you don't like the main character. The version of herself Radtke puts out there is one of a privileged intellectual who imagines herself as deep, but is, in actuality, contributing nothing new. This turned me off as with each new chapter I grew more anno

    I was expecting something introspective, but not this blatantly pretentious. I really appreciate the pacing, the carefully chosen bits of life Radtke shows, balancing the mundane with the profound quite well, but there's not much you can do when you don't like the main character. The version of herself Radtke puts out there is one of a privileged intellectual who imagines herself as deep, but is, in actuality, contributing nothing new. This turned me off as with each new chapter I grew more annoyed by the narrator. Not everyone will have this problem, I'm sure, but all the self-importance really put a damper on my enjoyment.

  • Jennifer

    I don't really even know how to begin this to be honest. I'm just going to sort of ramble.

    I feel like Radtke took something I hesitantly think about too often (how temporary mankind's time on earth is both individual and societal, what is left behind) and made me stare at it head on with no sunglasses and nothing to distract me. And instead of doing what many other writers may do where they find ways to comfort you, she just was like... Yep. So there's that. And we all keep going on, because tha

    I don't really even know how to begin this to be honest. I'm just going to sort of ramble.

    I feel like Radtke took something I hesitantly think about too often (how temporary mankind's time on earth is both individual and societal, what is left behind) and made me stare at it head on with no sunglasses and nothing to distract me. And instead of doing what many other writers may do where they find ways to comfort you, she just was like... Yep. So there's that. And we all keep going on, because that's all you can really do.

    But then in one way it was comforting because Radtke didn't try to turn this into a poetic and monumental moral message... she just invited you into her head. It was nice just to wander with her through all of her musings and attempts to bring meaning and authority to things that probably had no meaning. There were moments where I could see myself so vividly in her and it felt strange to see pieces of me on someone else's page, and moments where I just enjoyed peaking into seeing how other people comprehend and make sense of life.

    Also, the writing is gorgeous and really works well with the panels. Somehow Radtke captures an aching quiet while at the same time pouring restlessness into you as you're reading and I think the simplistic nature of the art helped with that.

    AND UGH. Part of me wants a print of the cover because it fits the book SO WELL, but part of me can't handle seeing that every day.

  • Sean Kottke

    Please note, my feelings about this book are out of step with the critical and popular consensus. First, the image on the cover (which appears in the narrative) isn't possible. There's no spot inside Detroit Metro airport that yields a view of the Detroit skyline, and to get this particular arrangement of buildings, one has to be across the river in Windsor. Minor complaint? Yeah, maybe, but given that the book is so sincerely grounded in documentary and a strong sense of place - particularly ab

    Please note, my feelings about this book are out of step with the critical and popular consensus. First, the image on the cover (which appears in the narrative) isn't possible. There's no spot inside Detroit Metro airport that yields a view of the Detroit skyline, and to get this particular arrangement of buildings, one has to be across the river in Windsor. Minor complaint? Yeah, maybe, but given that the book is so sincerely grounded in documentary and a strong sense of place - particularly abandoned places - with architecturally precise renderings of settlements and post-human ruins, taking poetic license for creative geography on the cover feels a violation. There's a cool emotional distancing throughout the book that's emphasized by the precise linework that unfortunately strays toward the clipart-esque. The narrator is frequently emotionally detached, from people, from herself, from the abandoned places she documents. There are some stirring epiphanies about humanity's relationship with its own creations as it seeks an illusory sense of permanence in the world in the final pages that are haiku-like in their profundity. To get there, though, takes patience with some cold, emotionally opaque memoir that is not my cup of tea.

  • Timothy

    I somehow can't resist my own catty retort to the title's directive: I wanted this book to be more than it was, so I was left with the dissatisfaction of not having imagined wanting only this but then getting just that.

    It held such promise: the illustrations were appealing, and I was responsive to the mental space of the main character even though her mobility without reference to any socioeconomic friction wasn't relatable to me. The main problem I had was with the ending, how it just sort of

    I somehow can't resist my own catty retort to the title's directive: I wanted this book to be more than it was, so I was left with the dissatisfaction of not having imagined wanting only this but then getting just that.

    It held such promise: the illustrations were appealing, and I was responsive to the mental space of the main character even though her mobility without reference to any socioeconomic friction wasn't relatable to me. The main problem I had was with the ending, how it just sort of dropped off, but on reflection that problem is rooted in how the narration throughout moves in and out of two spaces: one of personal memory and intimate reflection (although unplumbed); and the other a space of grander themes like ruination, impermanence, and environmental degradation. Moving back and forth in this way, but not going deeply interrogative in either the intimate or the epic, left the reader without much on which to base character empathy, and without enough texture to which philosophical thought might adhere. If either of these had been deeply investigated, the ending may have had a different feel, but with both of them left not fully examined, there was no choice but to let them collapse on each other.

    I would still recommend this book for the visual elements and for the purpose of discussion, but it didn't move me in the way I expected at times it might.

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