The Infinite Wait and Other Stories
The Infinite Wait and Other Stories is Julia Wertz’s followup to Drinking at the Movies, her collection of autobiographical comics about moving to New York.
Her art style hasn’t changed, although here it’s often more ambitious in the contents of her panels, with more detailed backgrounds and complex staging. She still draws herself with spaghetti arms, saucer eyes, and helmet hair, though, which provides a comfortable familiarity.
What’s different is how she’s framing her stories. This book has three “comic novellas”, longer pieces that attempt to tackle a significant subject. The one that worked best for me was the last and shortest, “A Strange and Curious Place”, about her love of books and libraries and how they provided comfort throughout the events of her life. Unfortunately, due to its placement and comparative length, it feels a little bit like an afterthought.
The book opens with “Industry”, a survey of the various jobs Wertz has held over her lifetime, from babysitting to mostly restaurant work. The flashbacks to her childhood are intriguing, with just enough information given to show us how very strange her upbringing was, and I love the bad customer waitressing stories. Many of these will be familiar to readers of her previous book (she even footnotes some of the references to pages from Drinking at the Movies), but here, they’re put in a bigger context, with a background of “but what I really wanted to do was make comics.” That part, at least — how she “broke into” the industry — is fresh yet universal. (“Just do it” appears to be the most sensible lesson.) She’s also more revealing about her alcoholism and the decisions she made under the influence than she has been in previous books.
The structure, jumping around from memory to memory, feels very similar to those volumes, too. Given the book’s premise, I expected something thematically stronger, but that’s just a matter of my incorrect expectations. Taken on its own, “Industry” is as entertaining as any of Wertz’s other stories, with more personal insight — or at least, more openness.
“The Infinite Wait” jumps back in time from her previous books to tackle the story of her diagnosis with systemic lupus after she moved to San Francisco for college. There’s a lot of both hanging out getting high and lying in bed suffering alone. But at this time, she discovered comics and started drawing them, so it’s kind of her “origin story”. There’s actually more dating and time with her brother than medical stuff in this piece, so again, the description may seem misleading. If you’re reading her work chronologically, this comes before the Fart Party volumes and leads directly into them.
Wertz talks about the book’s genesis at her website as well as linking to preview pages and the book’s missing page.