A Room of One’s Own
I read this comic at a usually abandoned cafe that I oft frequent before work, while behind me the stores sole other customer struggled to keep his table sign stable in the strong summer breeze. At first its attempts towards escape caught him by surprise and it clashed and clamoured against an empty chair before he caught it. The next time though he was ready, too ready, and leapt into action at the sight of a nearby leaf beginning to stir; now she I say “leapt” I mean it literally, saving the sign sure, but dashing everything else of the table in the same move. He all but slipped on a banana peel or got hit by a spinning ladder. I tell you all this as a way of saying “I know a little bit about distractions”.
These cracks in concentration that occur when caught near chatter or calamity are at the core of Natalie Nourigat’s mini comic A Room of One’s Own; it tells the story of her – or a slight pseudonyms – constantly interrupted attempts to read Virginia Woolf’s similarly semi-memoirish novel of the same name. Though don’t let the classical connection scare you off, this is a thoroughly modern tale and more than that continues the laid-back but authentic style started in the excellent Between Gears. So there’s nothing to be scared of. That said though, like Between Gears I feel that A Room (not to be confused with The Room) is a tale that will be best enjoyed by those who can easily empathise with its lead, namely writers, artists and other young, creative types.
This is point which the book itself points out when one of the characters remarks that they “like hearing a famous writer talk about writing [because] it’s more relatable to me,” and on this too we agree; hearing a writer like Natalie’s take on the craft is certainly compelling. For me inspiration is an incredible, but also incredibly fragile thing, one easily broken by both the boorish and unassuming alike and so it is, dare I say it, inspiring to know that this is the case too for other creators. Nice too is the way that Natalie counterpoints the depiction of this admittedly first-world problem with something much more global in women’s rights; contextualising but never criticising or trivialising the crises at its core.
Though this is only a mini-comic and thus one that only runs at between twenty and thirty pages it is still technically the longest piece of Natalie’s writing that I have read – Between Gears being more of a collage than a coherent narrative – and I have to say that the long term style suits her, particularly because of her short term experience. The story of A Room is paced out through a number of brief and occasionally voiceless vignettes that rely heavily on Nourigat’s visual technique, an approach that I don’t often favour but one that works wonderfully here. This free’s up what dialogue there is for the headier half of the material – which is the responding to, re-construction and occasional regurgitation of Woolf’s approach to writing – and having this focused thematic through line adds a potency and meaning to the otherwise mundane events depicted in the drawings; it’s a great balance.
The book actually reminds me a lot of one of my favourite Nick Cave songs, There She Goes, My Beautiful World in which a writer wonders why he can’t manage to write anything when so many others in atrocious situations could, but now I’m getting distracted. See, while life is that from which we derive our stories it is also the main detractor to our crafting of them. In this book the protagonists biggest problem is that she wakes up to reality before she was ready – life, I guess, is just a distraction from dreaming – and each new distraction during the day echoes that initial shock, hammering it back home. Though I may be over-reading here these distractions are then not just stopping us from writing or painting, but from living…yeah, that sounds over grandiose, but I think there’s something to it even if the comic itself is too unassuming to attempt it on that scale. Regardless of all that A Room, if nothing else, is a right little distraction from life, which is nice every now and then; the pretentious philosophy I added is just a promotional bonus.
Speaking of promotions, you should buy this book as it is ridiculously cheap. See HERE for her Etsy Shop. Now i’m off to write something, I wonder how long it will be until I get distracted.