This week I almost feel like I ought to issue a public health warning or something. I can’t remember which was the US TV station that used to give you helpful/obvious information/warnings and then show that rainbow with the tagline “the more you know”, but this is sort of like that. Simultaneously, I also have a bit of a naughty desire to encourage you. After all, even if there is the danger of randomly losing hours, it’s such a nice way to lose them. So here’s the message; Accidental comic book reading could strike any of us at any time! Be vigilant… (and also maybe a little bit open to it, because it might just be a good book to fall into.)
It all started out as a terribly industrious day, and I had an idea for my lunch break. Since it was beautiful outside, I thought I’d take a couple of books back to the library. Ordinarily I’d have simply renewed them online, then returned them when I was going to be in the area anyway running other errands. But with the sun shining and a cool breeze, it seemed like a perfect excuse for a walk through the winding back streets to the pretty little library.
Once there, before I took my books back to the front desk, I thought I’d look over the small shelf of “graphic novels” to see what they had. They have a rather eclectic collection, running the gamut from things which even my mum might consider literature, to things about people in brightly-colored spandex performing feats of strength. I’ve found that it’s worth looking because, despite buying an inordinate amount of comic books already, and even borrowing the odd one from a friend, once in a while the library will stock something that I never got around to reading, but feel I ought to read. Today they had a lot of volume 8’s of things, i.e. books so deep into a run that I could never get an idea of what’s going on. Since I wasn’t expecting anything it didn’t really matter. I suppose if I do want a specific comic, I can take a look at the libraries inventory on the website and then reserve it. You all probably know this, but the library will try to find you any book within the city system, and deliver it to the library nearest to you. It’s bloody amazing to me, for some reason I never expected the library to keep up with technology and change the way that the rest of the world has. People are always complaining that we don’t yet have jet packs or whatever, but it’s the small things like this that make me feel as though I’m living in the bright and shiny future.
Anyway, back to my afternoon. There I am picking apart a library shelf of comic books despite having shelves full of books at home that I need to make time to read, but there is that the draw of the new and strange that I can’t really resist. Also If I’m honest, I want to make sure that they’re representing my favorites comics too. I’m looking out for the comic books that I think are essential reading, in the hopes that one day the world will share my loves. It’s in the midst of this vacant, aimless browsing that something new jumps out at me, something I haven’t seen before. It is a brand, spanking new hardcover compilation of the newest Hopey stories; The Education of Hopey Glass. Naturally I do not need to own this book, because I already read the stories when they came out in the individual Love & Rockets comics, but I just want to take a quick look at this lovely new hardcover book. With it’s sassy title and green cover, I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to see how it all flows together. Coincidentally, right next to me is a sunny seat by the window, not only that, it’s a beautiful, comfy, red Herman Miller Eames chair (a favorite chair in a favorite color.) How can I resist sitting down for just a moment to take a look at a book about one of my favorite characters?
An hour or so later I looked up and realized that time had passed and somehow I’d read the entire book. It sucked me in, swept me up, and I couldn’t help myself. The cadence and familiarity of Hopey’s life just carried me away in a wonderful, sweeping river of sweet, funny, ordinary life. People grew, changed, moved, progressed, just like the people around me have. Every little incident showed how big those changes felt to the people experiencing them. I’d forgotten how much I love this fictitious woman, and how much I love her friends, her life, and everything that Jaime Hernandez depicts in all it’s random beauty. Even though I’d read the stories before, I suppose that somehow in the rush of reading the individual comic books as they came out, I didn’t quite appreciate the progression of Hopey. With a comic that’s coming out, there’s expectation, anticipation, and a lack of spontaneity that can cloud the experience of reading it. With this accidental reading, I got to see all of the silly little things I’d missed or just hadn’t really enjoyed as much on first reading. It’s all about those tiny moments of life; how obsessed Ray and Hopey get about big bottoms, where the ants go, what’s a reasonable time to sleep, and most blinding of all – how beautifully Jaime can draw a woman when he is depicting her in the specific moment that she is deeply desired by the people around her… So many stunning moments.
After I returned my books, I emerged from the library confused, blinking in the sunlight, lost for a moment in my real life. Completely accidentally, I got to spend a little part of my day lost in Hopey’s life, in her new job, old and new girlfriends, in Ray’s mourning of lost love, and Maggie’s familiar simultaneous joy and discomfort around her dear ex lovers. Even though I lost a small chunk of my day to reading in solitude, if I felt like I’d spontaneously visited some really good friends. In retrospect, I think the fact that it was completely unexpected is one of the reasons that it was so delightful. Just like seeing a good friend without planning to, the fact that it happens without plans or warning means that there is simply joy in each other’s company. Similarly, accidentally reading The Education of Hopey Glass was just what I needed, it made my day.
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