This week I loved following Jeremy Sorese's installment of "A Cartoonist's Diary" on The Comics Journal. The five-part series is a very charming, real, and sympathetic look at being a mid-twenties creative type in New York (and I imagine anywhere, but can't say for sure). Sorese covers themes I've seen in essays, memoirs, plays, short films--but uses his medium to some really amazing ends. (One of my favorite sequences is a conversation between Sorese and his therapist, who he draws as Spock on the bridge of the Enterprise, the captain's chair facing Sorese's couch with a fade of locations in the no-man's-land between them.)
The whole series reminds me, I guess for obvious reasons, of Alison Bechdel's work in her graphic memories and essays--careful, concerned, lightly self-deprecating and beautiful record-keeping, the hand of the cartoonist clearly trying to understand in its cataloging and remembering. (There's also a shared stripe of pop culture, both high- and lowbrow, as meaningful, ripe for analysis and perhaps the source of deep psychological truth.) Both Sorese and Bechdel seem to do what all memoir, perhaps all narrative period, should do: make meaningful, necessary use of the medium at hand to explore a question rather than an answer.
Sorese's work put me in mind of what most of my favorite stories do: this lovely quote from Rainer Maria Rilke--which I believe I first saw printed on a refrigerator magnet , and which honestly deserves that and all other exposure:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
It's so lovely to see any character, real or imaginary, loving the questions themselves--or, as is both more likely and more compelling, trying to love them--as happens in both Bechdel's and Sorese's graphic memoirs. "Why is it easier to trust your own feelings, a sensation you alone know..." Sorese wonders (in day four of his feature), "after someone else has put it into words for you?" That's how I feel about that passage from Rilke, and about so much lovely art, now including Sorese's work itself.