An Age of License and Displacement by Lucy Knisley
There are so many good, nonmainstream graphic novelists these days that you sometimes lose track of some of them. This is absolutely not to say that they are forgettable, but that there’s such a wealth of great and interesting work coming out that you can miss a few releases. Recently, I was reminded about Lucy Knisley, whose book Relish might be remembered by the Read Blog faithful when I recommended it some two years ago. Well after I read Relish I devoured her earlier title, French Milk, and was so anxious for her to release something new that I was quickly distracted by works by Box Brown and Cullen Bunn and Emily Carroll. With Knisley fresh in my mind again, I quickly searched CountyCat to see if anything new had come out in the past few years. My eyes lit up as there was not one, not two, but three works that I needed to check out, and I promptly did so.
The first was her contribution to the Adventure Time tie-in comic Fionna and Cake, which was a fun book (and her section was delightful but all too short). But this was just a detour before getting to the really exciting books. You see, she has published two different travelogues in the past two years, and both are absolutely exquisite.
Her 2014 book was An Age of License, detailing a cross-European trip through Scandinavia and France. Yet it is not the scenery or culture clash that makes the books so excellent, but the honest and candid account of Lucy’s own emotions throughout the journey. She is riddled with anxieties of life, meaning, and love, and these are at the forefront of her mind, accentuated by her brief affair with a Swedish fellow, her visits with friends from her youth and a newlywed couple, and her interactions with her ex John. The title of the book comes from a phrase she is told is an old French saying about the time of life when you are given “in license to experience, mess up, license to fail, license to do...whatever, before you're settled”, which neatly fits in with her own life at the time of her journey. Her fears and triumphs throughout the trip make her eminently relatable, and you will finish this book wishing to read more about her life.
Thankfully, you can read more, as we also have her 2015 travelogue, Displacement. Her trip this time is somewhat more confined; she does not go across the breadth of Europe, but instead travels aboard a giant cruise liner. This is not, sadly, a pleasure cruise for her, as she volunteered to follow her elderly grandparents on the cruise to be their caretaker. It is her grandparents and her relationship with them that define the majority of the book. Lucy does her best to make sure their needs are met, but it isn’t easy when her grandmother sometimes doesn’t even recognize her. It’s a trying experience to say the least, with the fragile state of her relatives leading to anxieties and thoughts about mortality and loss.
Displacement is much more melancholy than An Age of License, but it also has more dramatic weight. Lucy’s art style is as always beautiful and carefully crafted (with luscious watercolor work on the color pages). I devoured both of these books back-to-back in mere days, and was richly rewarded by the experience. I recommend stopping by your local library and picking up both of these books as soon as possible.