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CR Review: At A Crossroads: Between A Rock And My Parents Place
posted April 14, 2008
Kate T. Williamson
Princeton Architectural Press, softcover, 144 pages, March 2008, $19.95
Kate Williamson's book should find a fair number of fans among those who have a chance to read it. The story of a year and more at home after school while finishing a book, Williamson tale has an easygoing pace and tone that will remind many people of a long, NPR-ready spoken essay in comics form. It also has the weaknesses of one of those anecdote-filled mini-memoirs. While some of the stories are amusing (Williamson admits to trying to look cute while out in the yard despite the fact that that the boy she's seeking to impress is a non-starter), others are way too precious for words (a Hall and Oates fixation, with discoveries along the way that make it sound like an affectation made up after the fact). And even though Williamson is afforded full color, and she uses it to fine effect in terms of the scene work, her drawing in general isn't so strong that I'm glad she's the one that got this kind of project as opposed to another artist. In addition, even the best color work doesn't transcend any of the individual moment in a way that communicates mood or a wider sense of place.
The best thing I like Williamson's approach is how it blends typical illustration with comics, mostly by keeping a nice interplay between scenes of ballooned dialog by abandoning panels on most pages for single illustrations that capture a greater sense of the overall anecdote being related. That's something that can't be taught, and for Williamson to have picked up such a natural sense of structure at a young age is a promising sign of the future. I imagine that people will be fairly divided on At A Crossroads
. A lot of general readers will like its pleasant, amiable qualities and will find in the situation something to which they can relate; others will rake it over the coals for the banality of its approach in scenes and the general middle-brow, eager to please quality of Williamson's story. I think while recognizing the obvious talent I may be closer to the latter reaction. There's something about the work that feels as if an entire section of Williamson's life has been pruned until it fits into a series of cute stories. Life can be like that, constantly burbling along on medium-low, but I'm not convinced this one was, at least not in the way it's presented here.