cover image Imagine Wanting Only This

Imagine Wanting Only This

Kristen Radtke. Pantheon, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-101-87083-9

Writer, illustrator, and editor Radtke’s graphic memoir does something difficult within just a few minimally designed, emotional pages: she transforms the over-studied experience of being a talented artist stuck in that yearning gulf between college’s purpose and life’s demands into something unique and thuddingly real. Starting with a bracing trip she takes as a Chicago art student into a ruined Gary, Ind., cathedral, and framing her story with the sometimes panicky fatalism that comes with a dangerous heart defect, Radtke unspools a ruminative narrative about searching for meaning in an impermanent world. The focus on entropy, decay, and randomness would be grim and borderline pretentious if it weren’t delivered with an unusually forthright honesty and deft, Chris Marker–esque ability to parse out meaning and wonder from the smallest details. Though the story of her investigative journey into decay around the world resonates, it is flattened by artwork that, oddly enough, has almost no sense of place. (Apr.)