Notions of free-form hitchhiking (no itinerary, just scraps of money, no end in sight!) can thrill or chill. Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (Ulli Lust’s comic translated from German to English, 2013), is a memoir that does both.
Impulsively at age 17, Ulli roams through Italy for a few months with her insistent new friend, Edi. Eventually, they are ensnared at the beck and call of powerful men. Each of the two women must decide to stay, to bolt . . . or go home.
Ulli and Edi are adventurous to the point of brashness. Their journey is thrilling, with new sights, adventures, sex explorations, cocky plans for meals and shelter, and lots of laughs. The journey is also chilling, with encountering men (some aggressive, some pathetic, and most raring to go at it), taking street drugs, skirting violence, and spending time in jail.
Ulli’s journey fills 462 riveting comics pages. Reading through is like being on a roller coaster, rising then plummeting, wishing the experience would never end, and working hard to suck in a breath. There is a deluge to digest: tattoos, vomit, wine, murmurs in the dark, pubic lice, hairdos (prominent visuals in this comic), Nazis, music, rape, and hunger. But there are also small, sweet oases of starlight, satisfaction, and dreams.
After absorbing Ulli Lust’s provocative memoir in comics form, readers will want more to feel, see, and ponder. The following titles can keep the journey going:
MUSIC: Kind of Blue (Miles Davis, 1959) ◊ A classic, accessible and profound jazz album to relish after the comic’s last page (or for listening while reading).
MUSIC: Blind Faith (Blind Faith, 1969) ◊ Music about emotions, finding purpose, and facing the future. [This groundbreaking album established firm footing in Western popular culture just preceding Ulli Lust’s journey, making its style a part of the social scene of the times.]
PHOTOGRAPHS: Eye to Eye (Vivian Maier, 2013) ◊ “Eye to eye” portraits taken on streets around the world by a woman who kept these images with her personal belongings.
BOOK: Living Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Debra Gwartney, 2009) ◊ A memoir of family abandoned and family reconciled, told by a mother who searched for her daughters in San Francisco.
BOOK: On the Road (Jack Kerouac, 1957) ◊ A 20th century ‘Beat Generation’ classic about searching for meaning and growth on a cross country road trip.
BOOK: Girl (Blake Nelson, 1994) ◊ A literary look at the transition from stereotypical teen to non-conforming, satisfied young woman.
GRAPHIC NOVEL: Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year (Ramsey Beyer, 2013) ◊ A girl from small-town America goes to college in the city, documenting changes and transitions in her life with a journal and artwork.
GRAPHIC NOVEL: We Can Never Go Home (Matthew Rosenberg, 2015) ◊ Two teens leave home and can never go back. They have music, a car, cash, a gun, and some unusual capabilities.
FILM: Submarine (Mary Burke et al. [Producers]; Richard Ayoade [Writer/Director]; 2011) ◊ Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, a teenage boy’s coming of age is depicted amid family drama.
Beyer, R. (2013). Little Fish: A memoir from a different kind of year. San Francisco, CA: Zest.
Blind Faith. (1969). Blind Faith (sound recording CD). United Kingdom: Polydor.
Burke, M., Herbert, M., & Stebbing, A. (Producers); Ayoade, R. (Writer, Director). Submarine (videorecording DVD). Beverly Hill, CA: Anchor Bay.
Davis, M. (1958; 1987). Kind of blue (sound recording CD). New York, NY: Columbia.
Gwartney, D. (2009). Living through this: A mother’s memoir of runaway daughters and reclaimed love. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Kerouac, J. (1957; 2003); On the road. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Lust, U.; Thompson, K. (Editor/Translator). (2013). Today is the last day of the rest of your life. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics.
Maier, V. (2013). Eye to eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier. Chicago, IL: Cityfiles.
Nelson, B. (1994). Girl. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Rosenberg, M. (2015). We can never go home. Vol. 1, What we do is secret. Los Angeles, CA: Black Mask.