Graphic memoir is the hot genre these days in publishing. Where fantasy stories can be hit or miss, true-life autobiographical comics have an immediate hook — this story actually happened to someone.
In fact, if I’m honest, graphic memoirs are a bit of a drag on the market. Just because a story is true doesn’t always make it entertaining or well-told; structure is a huge challenge with autobiography. And one of the most common types of memoir is the coming-of-age story, or “this is when I realized (event) was a major life change”.
Mimi Pond in Over Easy manages to tell us of a key point in her life without it seeming repetitive or overly familiar. I suspect that’s because she focuses on the other “characters”, the colorful people she was interacting with at a time when she wasn’t as much of a personality. She was still young and uncertain, so her role as an observer is well-chosen. The result is a fresh, unusual, rewarding take on the genre.
Pond has been in art school, but she’s just been notified that her financial aid has run out. She isn’t particularly compelled to be an artist, instead seeking an escape from her suburban family. Dealing with the question of “what do I do now?”, she wonders into a cafe and talks herself into a job as a dishwasher, later waitress.
Pond’s word is green-tinted. The book is monochrome in an unusual tone reminiscent of faded money. She lightly caricatures everyone, including her young self, allowing the reader to concentrate on events instead of likenesses. Early on, she narrates, as she is first given a tour of the coffee shop and its workers, “All of this seems so familiar that I find myself trying to remember where and when I met these people. It seems like we’ve already known each other for years.” Reading this story gives much the same feeling.
As the book progresses, we get a few more details about the cooks and waitresses, the cast of the story Pond is watching (and sometimes making up). She envies their (perceived) self-possession, their romances and desires, their spats and insults and affairs. It’s all about the moments and the conversations. Individually, they’re not meaningful or memorable, but it all pulls together into a sprawling mosaic that perfectly illuminates the time and young adulthood.
In addition to her detailed portraits, I also greatly appreciated how Pond manages to portray the 70s without being overly valedictory or self-congratulatory. Too many boomers seem to think that the world and culture has and will always revolve around them, to the point where it becomes tiring, as a member of another generation, to read about how glorious things were then. That’s not a problem here.
Pond’s world has a general rosy glow, as suits a story of the past worth telling, but it’s not overdone, and the problems also make their appearance. Too young to be a hippie, early on she expresses dismay at how the overtones of the previous generation are hanging around, with casual drug use and unthinking, beatifically blissed acceptance becoming annoying. There are hints of a coming punk revolution, but this particular time period is one of being unsettled and uncertain, both personally and culturally.