September 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Julia Wertz is that little voice in your head cracking wise during situations that are absurd or even borderline tragic. Where plenty of (boring) people have learned to silence it, or at least self-edit, Wertz spits out these bits of irreverent nuggets:
“My life is the abortion Juno should have had,” the be-T’shirted and bobbed 20-something tells her friend in her graphic memoir Drinking at the Movies.
The quip comes in a vignette called “Today Everything is Shit” and by “shit” she means a jackhammered morning, a massive coffee spill, a broken camera and printer, and an accidental “reply all.” Her brother, a drug addict, relapsed — and crashed her car. She brought brown pens instead of black, her health insurance ran out, and she’s accosted outside of her apartment by a bum with a hook hand.
It’s all part of the mess hinted at on the first page of the “Fart Party”-creators story. Wertz comes to consciousness at 3 a.m. on her 25th birthday in a laundromat in Brooklyn. She’s got a fistful of Cracker Jacks, and she’s dressed in plaid pajama pants.
“What the …” Wertz asks, staring at a pile of double decker dryers.
From there she doubles back to chronicle the year that she moved from her excellent apartment in San Francisco to Brooklyn. A sort of whim that represents the side of her brain prone to doing the thing everyone advises against. The antagonist to the side of her brain that is totally responsible and, like, knows how to handle a weeping baby.
Wertz. Is. Hilarious.
She is a cartoonist who trolls for minimum wage jobs, who wears a uniform of comfy pants and a T-shirt or hoodie. She drinks plenty, sometimes in bed, and has the universal thought: What if computers had breathalizers attached to prevent drunk internetting? She’s got a handful of cool friends, who also draw. And her life has some downers: Lupus, but no insurance; Her brother is an addict who keeps relapsing, and she feels guilty for being the width of a country away from him. Her stepfather has cancer.
Still, she drops perfect colorful punchlines, the smartass in the back of a classroom. If her memoir were a movie, she would be a supporting character who outshines the star of the show with re-Tweetable one liners.
“I bet my spirit animal is something retarded like a root hog,” she thinks in a fit of insomnia and homesickness.
“That’s gayer than giving a rainbow a rimmer,” she says while chilling with a friend in Chicago and missing a very important conference call — which she eventually takes in an unlikely place:
“This is Julia from a trash can in a back alley in Chicago,” she says.
This year-in-the-life is such a superfun memoir. And if you don’t believe me, Wertz got a super clever blurb from Fiona Apple, who says she wishes a 2-D Wertz was her indian in the cupboard. “I’d make an easy chair out of a ring box, fasten it to the front of my bike, giver her a pen cap full of whiskey and off we’d go.”
This review was originally published on Minnesota Reads on Sept. 29, 2010.