review

EMITOWN, VOL. 1 – EMI LENOX

EmiTown, Vol. 1EmiTown, Vol. 1 by Emi Lenox
My rating: 2/5 cats
One StarOne Star


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man, this book could have been so freaking good. i’m a late-discoverer of mizz emi lenox, but i saw this cover and i was instantly book-grabby.

however, although her drawings are undeniably great, the book as a whole is a disappointment. it’s a collection of daily drawings, ostensibly autobiographical in nature, but she fails to commit to the one simple rule of autobiographical comics: divulge.

going the autobiographical route is hard. it’s squicky to put yourself out there for all to see, without vanity, insecurity, fear of who will read it and what they will think, and not everybody has the stones to share the dark juicy parts of their lives, and she clearly doesn’t, which is clear from this drawing:


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and obliquely, from these:


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she’s altogether too self-conscious for the demands of autobiography. but if you expect a reader to get through more than 400 pages of your doodles and musings, you gotta give them something a little more raw than what is in these pages. do it or don’t do it, but don’t expect a reader to tune in just for an outline of yourself as a human being.

let us see and smell your poo. poo is what connects us all.

when you take out the personal component to the diary form, what are you left with? basically a list of what she ate, how much she drank, where she went and with whom, her money woes, the daily temptation of coffee even though it makes her feel icky, and her nemesis the breakfast burrito, which takes up a disproportionate amount of page-time. there are some minor unpleasantness like a parking ticket, a spider bite, her dog pooping in the wrong place, but it’s human without being personal.

anything personal in an emotional sense is elided, hinted-at, and deflected with song lyrics,


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vague self-analyses and revelations that only she understands,


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even vaguer worries that read like a mad libs version of a diary


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if you’re writing a diary for an audience, you have to keep the audience interested. if you’re writing for yourself in diary form, you don’t need to be that coy about the details. pick a side and stand your ground because teasing the reader with this kind of stuff is intriguing without being interesting:


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400 pages of insinuation is not illuminating, interesting, or coherent and it’s a drag to know a lot about what she ate:


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and what she bought:


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while glossing over anything deeper


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“things,” “factors,” “something,” “it” – everything is so damn guarded. except that breakfast burrito.


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it just feels like an ersatz stand-in for experience and growth, like some treacly motivational poster.

there are days in which she seems to feel sorrow, apprehension, where something affected her, but we get no concrete reference point for the feeling.


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no idea why she supposedly has no soul or what the work situation is, but hey – at least we know what she ate for breakfast!


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so vague….


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she spends way too much time on the breakfast burrito plight, and wayyyy more time congratulating herself on doing housework than a 26-year-old should, especially one who occasionally goes to her parents’ house to do laundry.

there are many examples of drawings like this


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and other celebratory sharings of accomplishing basic shit


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her tone in general is very young and sheltered. it lacks perspective of what would be interesting to readers, or that flair in making the mundane interesting, and relies on cutesy goo goo far too frequently:


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she says it about herself in a different context:

I’ve never broken a bone, been seriously ill, been in a car accident, and never had anyone I was really close to die (except Weenie)<— her cat.

she doesn’t have much to write about in terms of life-experience, but she’s scared of sharing what she does have and we’re left with the literary equivalent of cotton candy – supersweet and leaving no trace of itself after you’ve read it:


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none of this is interesting. it’s cute, maybe, but it’s just empty blather.


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ew, sweat is icky!

this is a girl who needs to have a bit more of life happen to her before she starts selling it in book-form. but that’s not even the real problem – the real problem is that she refuses to be interesting even when she could:


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if there were ever a missed opportunity for telling a personal anecdote, that time “I fell through a glass door in the mid nineties” ranks pretty high. but no. we never learn the details of that particular tale.

and ironically, just under that doodle, she starts talking about how her work is ’emotionally driven’:


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but she never shares any of that emotion with the reader. weak stuff. you neither come across as sad nor demonstrate a happy energy. you’re just a cute puppy drawing cute stuff squee #breakfastburrito!

it’s almost worse when she does try to demonstrate emotional depth:


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this is the kind of inward-facing emo babble i was scrawling in my journals when i was a teenager that i’d long outgrown by the time i hit 26.

and this is just a muddle of ideas/realizations that doesn’t even have a coherent thread or logic


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that’s just four different tangents signifying nothing.

more hazy nonsense:


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what is she concerned about? what is the downside she just learned? we will never know, but at least we know that there is something called “blackberry brambles” that is yum yum.

she’s occasionally more transparent than she intends:


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the accidental repetition of “at all” is pretty telling, but still not interesting without context or personality.

ordinarily, it would be enough for me that she draws cute things, and i understand it can be challenging to draw something new every day, but not everything is interesting enough to document, and including to-do lists


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or tallying your expenses on every page


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is just wasted space. no one cares how much you spend on gas. tell us something real, let us in.


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realer than that.

and after 400 pages, it doesn’t even end anywhere that feels like closure or a natural stopping point. the final page covers her inability to parallel park and the fact that she doesn’t like her neck touched and then it just ENDS.


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it seems like a slap in the face after reading so much. there’s nothing to connect the reader to the book at all.

the worst part is that she’s not unaware of her crutches


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it just doesn’t stop her from using them


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and while we’re wearing our nitpicky hats, there’s a lot of wonky grammar, and misspelled or wrong words. so, hhmph.


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it’s funny – i think i liked this book more before i actually sat down to review it, and during my second “review-pass,” all the things that had bothered me stood out more. my breaking point on the second read was this page:


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so much immaturity clustered up here: teen sarcasm, look how weird and whimsical i am, LOL lesbians!! blarg.

she’s a cute girl that draws well and she’s probably fun to drink with, but this is not nearly confessional enough a book to interest people who dig autobiographical comics – it reads like a training-wheels kind of life with no takeaway for the reader. if she’s not going to show her human warts, she should stick to illustrating and just let someone else do the writing next time.

read my reviews on goodreads

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