Hot on the heels of the debut of Marvel's Iceman, Sina Grace follows it up with his latest memoir, Nothing Lasts Forever, a series of vignettes taking on the trials and tribulations of dating, creating comics, depression, and a chronic illness. Similar to his earlier memoir, Self-Obsessed, we see short autobiographical comic strips on a both work and personal life, with the added dimension here of an ongoing health crisis.
The stories here are told in a series of brief sketches Grace calls "memories." We see his struggles with creativity and finding inspiration - whether it's meeting with his editor, sleep or booze, nothing seems to get his creative juices flowing. The con life doesn't seem to help for an ego boost, either—he feels like a small fish in a very big pond, especially when compared to friends who have "made it." Dating is no easier than creating comics; Sina cycles through a series of forgettable men and dysfunctional relationships while dwelling on a long-ago high school crush. Each of these experiences is framed in the light of his ongoing mental health issues—anxiety, depression, self-mutilation. Lighthearted moments add yin to the yang: that desire for the friend that can help with taxes, the one time he took mushrooms, and a whole lot of dick picks. The second half of the novel walks the reader through a mystery illness (revealed to be achalasia in the esophagus), treatment, recovery, and a realization of self and his role in the world.
The format of this story is what sold me as a reader. A good memoir goes past the "here's my life and why it was so wonderful (or why it sucked)" to include a hook of sorts, a common theme to bind the slices of life together. For Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, the binder was the city of Cleveland itself. For Sina, the binder is a journal, a "daily record of events on business, a private journals, is usually referred to as a diary." The story itself is not linear at all. This is not a "this happened, and because of that, this happened, and so on" type of autobiography. These are recollections, straight out of the pages of a diary, individual enough to be consumed one by one (especially if subject matter becomes too much to handle) or in a full sitting. They relate, but exist independently.
Grace's choice of illustration and color adds to the vulnerability of this period in his life.
Special appearance by Lil' Depressed Boy!
Broad pencil strokes and cursive writing add to the feel of a journal and the lack of color, save for muted pastels, evoke the fleeting feeling of these vignettes—like memories, nothing is as exact or detailed as it is meant to be. The story of his high school crush appears on pages to resemble notebook paper, as if it was created in between algebra and study hall. And in an ironic twist, that story about taking mushrooms is drawn with broader, darker strokes and more careful detail than previous memories.
The most vivid memories sometimes require a little help
The lesson we can all take from Nothing Lasts Forever is from this panel near the end of the book:
The creative life can often be one fraught with frustration, and Grace's openness about his own struggles might just inspire you to be the best authentic self you can be.