Knisley, Lucy. An Age of License: A Travelogue.

Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2014.

Lucy is one of my favorite cartoonists, and has been since I discovered French Milk a few years ago. She doesn’t do superheroes or any of that. She does real people, mostly herself, living real life, with an autobiographical concentration on food (her parents are a chef and a gourmet) and travel (which, even in her late 20s, she still gets nervous about).

This one, set in 2011, revolves around her invitation to be a featured guest at the Raptus comics fest in Bergen, Norway. She was having an opportunistic affair with a handsome Swedish vegetarian mathematician (who also used to dance professionally) who was visiting in New York, and she figured she could work in a visit to him in Stockholm. And see some friends who were honeymooning in Berlin. And another friend working in wine in Beaune. And spend some time with her mother, who was vacationing in Royan, on the Bay of Biscay. And another few days with the Swede in Paris before returning home.

Travel is important, she says, because “it unhomes you.” You need new experiences, and those are best gotten in entirely new surroundings. Lucy, in fact, has been traveling periodically most of her life, but she’s not sure it’s working. Especially since she’s still suffering from a two-year-old break-up and she’s still in love with the guy. (Good news — they finally got back together and were married in 2014.)

So the book is largely an account of the stages in Lucy’s European trip: The people she meets, the sights she sees, the things she pauses to reflect on and the insights she occasionally gains (“Love is complicated; I’m not sure I’m very good at it”), and, of course, her star turn at Raptus. Oh, and the title? “The French have a saying for the time when you’re young and experimenting with your lives and careers. They call it ‘L’Age License’. As in, license to experience, mess up, license to fail, license to do . . . whatever, before you’re settled.”

Her drawing style could be called “gentle,” and the words she puts with her art are a delight to read. You can’t help thinking Lucy is the sort of person you would love to have as a friend. Oddball tattoos and all.

Published in: on 12 February 2016 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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