Part of my goal for these next few weeks are to get back to some comics I read in 2017 and early 2018 but didn’t properly evaluate. For the next few weeks I will be trying to get in some writing I’ve been putting off over the last few months. October and November were hard months for me personally, and I’m working to get back into the swing of things here at Sequential State. I’m hoping to end the year strong and start 2019 on a good foot. We’ll see how that goes. One of these comics I’ve been putting off is a series of autobio strips written by Laura Lannes in February and March of 2017. These comics were originally published online and were subsequently printed as a collection titled By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage in a massive spiral-bound book by art comics publisher 2dcloud. I read the comics as they were coming out online, before Lannes finalized the color scheme, and I picked up the book from the 2dcloud table at SPX, but I never sat down and read through the comics again. I’ve done that recently and I’ve been stewing over Lannes work, which has a caustic intensity unlike most autobio cartoonists.
The title of the book By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage comes from the Steven Sondheim musical Company, which was one of the first musicals to address adult relationships as a central theme. And, like that musical, By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage addresses the messiness that is adult relationships. Lannes is dating a guy named Francisco who is in an open, long-distance relationship. He’s hung up on his girlfriend, but wants the benefits of someone to sleep with. Lannes, meanwhile, jumps headfirst into a relationship that eventually causes her a lot of sadness and grief. There’s a duality to Lannes’ frustration in this relationship, because she’s pissed off at Fran being a non-committal dolt, and because she is falling for a guy won’t give up a past relationship.
There are plenty of comics memoirists who sand down the edges of their autobio comics – the Lucy Kniselys of this world are more than happy to make even the difficult and dirty parts of their stories rose-colored. By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage is the opposite of that tendency. In the pull quote, Carta Monir says, “These are the kind of comics that could get someone in trouble,” and I found that Monir’s distillation was an accurate one. Lannes is unflinching about, well, everything, including the sex she has and the troubles it causes her, including a potential case of chlamydia. There’s a spectacular vulnerability to the work, as well as a brittleness that makes the work hard to look away from.
The primary concern of By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage is the way people try to form emotional and sexual connections. There’s an admission in this work, however begrudging, that there is something special about the bond between people. But Lannes also throws her hands up at the absurdity of it all as well. Going into more debt to maybe get laid in New Orleans (it doesn’t happen), getting in fights on Tinder in an effort to get laid – it’s ridiculous, and Lannes plays all of it straight, which makes it seem even more absurd.
Amidst all of the relationship drama, Lannes goes to Mardi Gras with a guy she hooks up with when she’s on the rebound, buys a giant plant that is poisonous to cats, try to get paid by sleazy web companies that are trying to pass the bill off on one-another, and goes to a few Democratic Socialist meetings. These things that are all a part of Lannes’ life give the comics a texture and a rootedness that made me feel immersed in the work.
It doesn’t hurt that Lannes art is great. There’s a delicacy and a refinement to her brushwork; I’ve never seen lines that managed to be this soft and this precise in a comic. The comic uses a tall 3×4 grid The dual tone yellow and black serve the comics well, and I think the end result is both a good read and a joy to look at.
Lannes’ skill in By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage is one of pacing and smart observation. The comics within By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage are both heartbreaking and very funny, and that combination exacts a higher emotional toll from the reader. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower. A specific scene where she cycles through options for masturbation is particularly funny, as is a moment in the middle of the book where she breaks the fourth wall. But the moments where things get dark, they get really dark. The book ends at probably the lowest point possible, Lannes again masturbating, but crying at the same time. Sobbing is interrupted by moaning, and it’s a very heart wrenching moment. You feel as the reader that you have seen something you should haven’t seen. Collected in one book, these private moments in Lannes’ life, when laid bare, make the reader into an emotional voyeur. It’s uncomfortable, and it should be.
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