Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride
Lucy Knisley’s latest autobiographical tour-de-force expands beyond the food memoirs and travelogues she’s known for by tackling one of the biggest events in many women’s lives: her wedding.
Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride takes a very modern approach. As is true of many young women, Knisley is ambivalent about the many traditions around the ceremony and the costs involved. In this graphic memoir, she works through her qualms about the history of the ceremony as marking women as property, coming to terms with how brides are treated with such privilege, without justification.
(It’s a marker of how quickly our US culture has changed that some of her concerns, about how some relationships, those of same-sex couples, aren’t recognized the same way, are now outdated.)
She spent a year getting her wedding together, making much of it herself, since she felt, as an artist, she wanted her own stamp on the ceremonies. By customizing so much of it, she could reassert herself as a person, not a role. And she could come to terms with her feelings about the conflict between her career and her role as a wife and potential mother. There’s plenty positive, too, celebrating a wedding as a ceremony of love — between two people, but also among those who gather for them.
Chapters deal with the ways brides are manipulated, planning the food, dress shopping, choosing music, picking from a variety of traditions, and deciding to build a barn on her mother’s property for the location. Each element comes with its own conflicts and challenges, sometimes with strong emotional connotations. One high point is the short reminder, somewhere in the middle, that ultimately this is all about celebrating love with people who care for you.
Underneath it all shines through her feelings for her groom (who’s been part of previous books, so presumably, he knew what he was getting into marrying an autobiographical cartoonist), grounding the events in the reason it’s all being put together. She opens with their first date, although in the mists of time it becomes jumbled, emphasizing what she remembers most. Later chapters cover why they broke up — and their disagreement over whether to have kids — and how they became engaged. Each segment raises well-thought-out concerns about life milestones, what they mean, and how any individual fits into them.
I adore Knisley’s style, the open, clean lines, the soft coloring, the comfortable lettering, so often captioning and contextualizing what she’s showing us. I also admire her openness, sharing her thoughts on attending other weddings and how she grew up.
If I have one complaint, it’s that this is Knisley’s biggest book yet, almost 300 pages, which makes it harder on the wrists to read in one sitting. Yes, that’s a very minor point, because she is so good at everything else about the work: the images, the storytelling, the situations, the motivations.
As someone who wed with a planned elopement (NYC city hall, two guests, out for lunch afterwards, few decisions, no debt, totally recommend it!), it was fascinating to me to watch the amount of detail that went into this event. There’s only one moment when I thought “maybe I missed out”. It’s when she, watching family and friends and co-workers interact at the morning-after breakfast, thinks, “When would all these people — my favorite people — ever gather together again? Probably never.”
Knisley had quite the party, and I’m glad she got to make such memories. I also don’t regret not going through all this! It’s wonderful that she has such a record of the year she spent and the commitment she made, and that she explains it to us in such depth and with such intriguing thought.
There are preview pages online. (The publisher provided a review copy.)