Lucy Knisley, An Age of License, 2014, Fantagraphics Books, 192 pages. Travel memoir
An Age of License is a French saying, which may or may not be an actual saying at all, that refers to a time for failure and experimentation before one finally settles down. The saying also happens to be the title of Lucy Knisley’s graphic travelogue, An Age of License. In her book, Knisley is at an existential crossroads: her relationship of five years just ended because she was ready for children and her partner was not, she’s down to one last single friend, and she consistently finds herself pondering the trajectory her life. So when the opportunity to be flown to Norway for a comics festival presents itself, the natural sense of wanderlust brought on by heartache takes over. The situation itself is almost too perfect - one of her best friends is getting married/honeymooning in France at the same time as her mother and friends will be traveling throughout the country. And, as if her life isn’t complicated enough, she plans to meet up with her crush, a Swedish ex-doctoral student she met while he was visiting the States. Needless to say, her planned escape from reality ends up becoming an immersive journey into herself.
Page layout is one of An Age of License's most notable and enjoyable features. Much in the same way in which she is freeing herself from monotony, Knisely eschews the traditional use of comic panels. Instead, she opts to let her visuals, speech and thought bubbles lay amongst each other on the page in an almost free form manner. Thus, allowing for a greater emphasis on her characters, their thoughts and emotions. The book is sectioned off by occasional, more detailed pages which focus in on one subject. These pages are beautifully water-colored and serve as both a break from the book’s predominant black and white scheme while also functioning as title pages for different sections of the book.
Traveling the world while still discovering your path in life, especially at a time when it seems like your peers are all set in theirs, is a classic move for a person in their late twenties – one that really anyone who’s ever been at a crossroads in their life will understand. While it’s true that traveling certainly changes a person, most can attest to the fact that it cannot do the same for the circumstances of their life. Much in the way in which the book’s title may or may not be a saying, An Age of License is a wonderful exploration of what one young person’s life may or may not ultimately become that proves to be relatable on a number of levels.
-Ramon Garcia, MS-LS Candidate 2020