Friday, November 27, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #27: Jai Granofsky

Jai Granofsky's Waiting For Baby is ostensibly the story of Granofsky and his partner Shira coming together and going through the process of having a baby. What it really is is a frequently disturbing, bracing and brutally honest account of depression, addiction, despair and the light at the end of the tunnel. Granofsky's account of his own self-loathing and bad behavior is almost wince-inducing, even as he punctuates it with moments of humor and a remarkably even-keeled, even dispassionate overall tone. Everything is at stake in terms of happiness and meaning, yet Granofsky fights that pressure by depicting himself almost as a bystander in events that concern him but in some ways are happening to someone else.

The story starts with the anxious, exciting early moments of a relationship, the blissful honeymoon period, and the joyful reveal that his girlfriend Shira was pregnant. That early excitement turned into anxiety about the future, which turned into full-blown depression that manifested as relentless hatred toward everything and everybody--especially himself. There's an early climax where Jai takes Shira's annoying dog for a walk after he saw it chew up a book, the dog jumped on someone, and he snapped and punched the dog. It's a shocking scene, one that is magnified when he decides to smoke pot again after having quit.

Things don't exactly get resolved, but the book turns more toward discussion of the future baby, family, names and getting rid of the dog, that turns into Jai "practicing" killing himself with a belt and eventually getting help. As the book speeds to the inevitable birth, I was amazed at how Jai was just barely able to keep himself together, unable to feel like he could trust himself as a father while anxiously wondering if his baby would one day kill him. Cleverly, Granofsky doesn't give the reader a specific resolution, ending the story just as his son was about to be born and he was ready to use the one thing that kept him sane and in the world: his ability to draw.

Granofsky's work and slightly dispassionate but intense storytelling style reminds me a bit of Chester Brown. There's a plainness to his character design that reflects life as it's lived, not an idealized version of it. Even Granofsky's use of color is muted, more for informational purposes than to liven up the story. Ultimately, this story is one of simply living from one day to the next, understanding that there are no simple answers and that anxiety can be faced down but never eliminated. It's in that simple honesty that the story has its power, as Granofsky's admitting his own sense of hopelessness and helplessness on paper clearly aids him in coming to grips with his own demons as well as the new responsibility in front of him.

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