A noted cartoonist and essayist returns with another collection of profoundly personal essays.
A number of themes and motifs glide through the gleaming streams of Kreider’s (We Learn Nothing, 2012, etc.) writing. He writes continually about his relationships with women, all of which have broken (though some amiably so), and he notes that he has never been married or even lived with a woman. We also hear about the cat he’s had for nearly 20 years; the author wryly notes that this relationship has lasted the longest of his adult life. Throughout, Kreider, the creator of the popular comic strip “The Pain—When Will It End?,” deploys an extremely self-deprecating tone, which comes across as appealing and humorous and, sometimes, laugh-out-loud funny. He identifies himself as an atheist, but he also says that belief is “softening” now. He also writes affectingly about time, observing that the past is really just a story we continually revise. Though most of the pieces—previously published in other forms—are brief, there are a couple of longer ones, including one about “attachment theory,” a topic that increased in interest for him when he learned that as an infant he’d been involved in a key psychological study on the topic. His liberal political views are evident, particularly so in “Our War on Terror,” an essay that gently interweaves his observations about current events with an account of another imploding relationship with a woman. Literary and cultural allusions pop up throughout the collection: Albee, Gilgamesh, Maslow, Freud, Montaigne, Descartes, and others. Kreider can also be informal/nontraditional in his language, and the pieces are piercingly, painfully reflective: for example, he discusses his college teaching experiences and how he dealt with his sexual attractions to his students.
An artful example of how the deeply personal can also be the broadly general.