Comics History Relationships Society

Read Seek You

Read Seek You by Kristen Radke

There is a silent epidemic in America: loneliness. Shameful to talk about and often misunderstood, loneliness is everywhere, from the most major of metropolises to the smallest of towns.

In Seek You, Kristen Radtke’s wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains. Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art, Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share.

Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to the rise of Instagram, the bootstrap-pulling cowboy to the brutal experiments of Harry Harlow, Radtke investigates why we engage with each other, and what we risk when we turn away. With her distinctive, emotionally charged drawings and deeply empathetic prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully shines a light on some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments, and asks how we might keep the spaces between us from splitting entirely.

A bit of memoir mixed in with history and analysis, this is the kind of non-fiction book I like best: synthesizing and humanizing the subject, elevating it with visual symbolism, and honing in on the essential because of the length restrictions of the graphic novel format. Especially appreciated the section on the cowboy idol and American toxic independence. The chapter on monkey research was hard to read because the experiments are so upsetting, though she illustrates it compassionately.

She uses a color palette suited to the melancholy of loneliness: gray-blues, muted purple, beige, and an orange that in the context of the book reminds me of a streetlight or passing cars through the window at night. A variety of visual metaphors conveys concepts along with thematic and autobiographical illustrations. Shadows fall heavy on faces with dramatic lighting, and the line work is fine and precise, summoning the sterility and disaffection of Chris Ware or Adrian Tomine. In short, the mood suits the work well.

Loneliness influences the expression of our genes – and lonely people are more likely to die and get sick (also rad drawing of an octopus)

Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism: loneliness is “the common ground for terror”

Loneliness is contagious

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *