Monday, May 11, 2015

French Milk

French Milk, by Lucy Knisley (pronounced "nigh-zlee") is, on the surface, a charmant little graphic novel about a girl's month-long trip to Paris with her mother.  It's biographical - she turns 22 in the story, and I believe she published it at age 22 as well.  She's almost preternaturally into food and writes lovingly about baguettes and cheeses and wines.  At 22, I was most interested in any pizza that was free.  I ate cheese out of a box.

Her drawing style was quite similar to Jeffrey Brown, who I like quite a bit.  (Oh, it looks like they both went to the School of the Art Institute at the same time...)  The book is interspersed with what appear to be (surely?) purposefully terrible photographs.  To tell the truth, although I found the book charming and the drawings were adorable and I liked all the food bits, Lucy comes off as a super-privileged kid who does way more complaining about her life than you'd think someone who was lucky enough to spend a month in Paris should.  While I admire her honesty and sort of bravery to put her whole self out there, it really lacks a maturity that only comes with, well, age.  Of course, the reverse is true as well: it sort of perfectly encapsulates the sort of self-absorbed, woe-is-me attitude of the privileged 20-year old.  It's sort of like the first season of Girls - really strikes a chord with a lot of women, but lacks diversity and wallows in narcissism. Nothing illustrates her youth better than the inspiration for the title - she loves the milk in France and guzzles it like a toddler. As I read French Milk, I wondered how she felt about it now.  And look what I found in a recent comic:

It looks like her style has changed quite a bit, and, just as I suspected, she appears slightly mortified by her work from 7 years previous.  If I had anything in print from when I was 22, I can tell you I would Simply. Die.  It would be embarrassing beyond measure, so, in the end, I really admire Knisley for having the courage to put herself on the page.  It looks like she's written quite a few more graphic novels and I look forward to reading more and seeing how her art and her perspective have changed.