cover image Everything Is an Emergency: An OCD Story in Words and Pictures

Everything Is an Emergency: An OCD Story in Words and Pictures

Jason Adam Katzenstein. HarperPerennial, $19.99 (256 pages) ISBN 978-0-06-295007-9

In this candid examination of life with obsessive-compulsive disorder, New Yorker cartoonist Katzenstein draws his brain as a broken record. “Your hands are dirty. Scrtchh. Your hands are dirty. Scrtchh. Your hands—.” Katzenstein succinctly conveys what it feels like to be trapped in a mental loop dominated by panic, guilt, and fears of “contamination.” Sometimes he’s a sweaty Sisyphus, mentally pushing a boulder up a hill even as he builds a relatively happy life in New York City; sometimes he’s swirling in an isolation, unable to get out of bed. For years, Katzenstein has managed day-to-day with the mantra—born of an acid trip that freed him briefly—“find the seconds that feel okay and live in them.” But eventually he realizes that to stretch out seconds into livable days, he has to accept the professional help he’s long resisted, and face his anxieties head-on. The moment he’s finally able to sit on a public toilet seat, he feels like a superhero. Katzenstein’s drawings range from broad caricature to genuinely creepy replays of darker fears. This refreshing and accessible debut, with crossover potential for older teens, will be a welcome addition to the growing canon of graphic medicine. [em]Agent: Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (June) [/em]