by Kristy Harding
Usually I do to graphic novels what I did to Persepolis: I tear through them in an afternoon and end up disappointed that I didn’t give myself the chance to get to know them better. David Chelsea in Love was a graphic novel first for me. It actually took me several weeks to read.
It wasn’t because it was bad. It was actually good enough to give me the disorienting-in-a-good-way feeling I always get when a book manages to convince me that it’s taking me somewhere else. The scenes that take place in Portland made me nostalgic for my last trip to Portland, and the characters were so well drawn that I could remember each one and tell them apart even though there were a lot of them, and they flip-flopped between Portland and NYC swapping relationships continually.
The thing was, even though David Chelsea in Love was good at taking me on a trip, that particular trip wasn’t always a trip I wanted to take. Most of the time, it was like that friend who continually complains about relationship problems because they need to tell somebody, and they don’t actually care if anybody is listening. When you have too many of your own problems to deal with, you let their call go to voicemail or sit there nodding your head and feeling a little used, but when you’re lonely and relaxed it can pass for friendship, especially over a pint in a loud pub.
The book was full of two person dialogue between David and Minnie in which they attempt to define and redefine the terms of their relationship. Because of Minnie’s quirky personality and David’s awkwardness with polyamory, it was amusing at first to watch David try to answer questions like: How do you negotiate a romantic relationship with someone who thinks her only shot at real love flew by when she was seventeen? What do you do when you get your girlfriend pregnant, but you’re not her primary relationship? Eventually though, the book began to run in a predictable cycle of craziness, breakups, and painful attempts to be friends.
Taking so long to finish the book came with an interesting side-effect, though. If you spend enough time with the relationship- problems friend, you eventually figure out that you’re getting to know them, maybe even better than you know anyone else. By the time I finished David Chelsea in Love, because I spent such a long time with it, I felt like I had experienced it much more than any other graphic novel I’ve read.
And that’s probably the biggest reason why I don’t mind the space it’s taking up on my desk as I write this. David Chelsea in Love is a whiny friend, but it’s still a friend.
Kristy Harding is founder of Paper Tape and can be found @kristyharding.