Lucy Knisley Makes a Return to Travelogues with “An Age of License”

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Lucy Knisley Makes a Return to Travelogues with “An Age of License”

Recently the wonderful folks at Fantagraphics Books asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a few of their titles, one of which was Lucy Knisley’s latest work, An Age of License.  As a longtime fan of Knisley’s webcomics, self-published books, and her recent best-selling food memoir Relish, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.

Lucy Knisley is well known for her travelogues.  Her first book, French Milk, published by Simon & Schuster, is in fact a travel journal kept while on a trip to Paris with her mother back in 2007.  Since then, she’s illustrated several accounts, including trips to Florida, Tanzania, Florence, and even a return to Paris, which are available through her website.  An Age of License, however, is her first travelogue published through Fantagraphics, and will be followed next summer by another work titled Displacement.

An Age of License takes place in September of 2011, when Knisley was given the opportunity to present at the Raptus Comics Fest in Norway all-expenses-paid.  What follows is an intensely personal glimpse into a deeply formative and transitional time in the author’s life.  Knisley travels from Norway to Sweden, Germany to France, meeting with old friends, spending time with her mother, evaluating her career, and most prominently, attempting a new romance.  Her accounts shift between wistful descriptions of her surroundings and intimate contemplations on life, love, anxiety, culture, and privilege.  The title is inspired by a concept Knisley heard about on her trip, “the age of license” in which a young person has the time and means to experiment and enrich themselves.

Her illustrations in this book are more free-form than what you may have seen in Relish. The images, developed simultaneously with her narration, communicate the impermanence of her travels. Her art, as always, has a melancholy whimsy, combining childlike joy with the all-too familiar doubts and fears that are born of burgeoning adulthood.

Drawn in black & white and interspersed with lovely watercolor inserts, An Age of License carries all the weight and emotion of a diary entry, but with the added benefit of charming visuals that only enhance the beauty and apprehension that accompany Lucy throughout her journey.  The book will be released in September 2014, but is available for pre-order from Fantagraphics.

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