Imagine Wanting Only This: A Contemporary Graphic Novel

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In Kristen Radtke’s graphic memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This, the genre of non-fiction is pushed into an artistic and innovative form of prose that resembles poetry. Radtke meditates on the concept of the meaning of life as the story transitions from her young life to adulthood. She questions her experiences and relationships along the way. She develops an obsession over ruins and what is left behind after death that inevitably consumes her thoughts and ultimately affects how she operates and perceives the people and places around her. The underlying theme of fatality in Radtke influences her thoughts and her overall perception of life. Through detailed illustrations and poetic language, Imagine Wanting Only This, questions the true meaning of life and the impression each individual leaves on this Earth.

Graphic novels can be a turn off for some readers. I am one of those people. The illustrations act as a distraction for me when I’m trying to puzzle through the words and overall content of the message the author is getting at. However, Radtke’s debut graphic novel caused a change of heart for me. The illustrations are drawn solely in black, white, and shades of gray that mirror the melancholy tone of her writing. Radtke focuses on the theme of ruin and battles with loneliness. I found myself getting lost in her life on a more personal level with the drawings of her family and characters like her deceased grandmother and Uncle Dan. Radtke also includes real photographs within her graphic novel, which highlighted the non-fiction element of this graphic novel.

With graphic novels, I am conflicted in regards to the animated feeling that illustrations exude. Illustrations are fictional artistic elements in themselves, which I find disrupting to my own imagination. However, Radtke effectively employed her illustrations to resemble her real life experiences, which made the novel believable for me. The illustrations strategically embody the present emotions without deterring from the written content. The two flawlessly create a dynamic construction of a memoir.

Imagine Wanting Only This, by Kristen Radtke, is a well balanced compilation of a graphic novel with strong prose that resemble poetry and illustrations that speak for themselves.  The illustrations could not be separated from the written portion and effectively create its own visual story as well as the language could not be separated to form a formal non-fiction novel. However, the language of this novel could become its own collection of poetry. Radtke mends the two to create a faultless graphic novel that questions life and time.

PRR Author, Anna Symons

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