Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life
Fantagraphics Books, 2013
Putting down Ulli Lust’s autobiographical graphic novel, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, for the first time in two days has left me euphoric and sad to see it end. Clocking in at a hefty 463 pages of pure adrenaline, Lust’s book is a theme park full of adventure rides. Don’t let the size stop you from grabbing this wondrous piece of work; I literally carried it with me everywhere, unable to peel my eyes from the pages. An easy read, Lust’s beautifully crafted storyline and talented drawings only scratch the surface of this incredible memoir.
Ulli and her new friend Edi, teenagers fresh off the 80s Viennese punk scene, hitchhike their way southwest through Austria, hiking through the brush, and over the border into Italy for the winter, “I realized the craziness of our situation: Two 17-year-old girls hitchhiking to Italy… a country which I only knew from books and movies… with just a sleeping bag… a blanket, no spare clothes, no money, no papers. We felt like global explorers!!!” (57). Lust manages to tackle heavy coming-of-age emotions and scenarios with the greatest of finesse. Despite the (sometimes dangerous) hurdles she manages to maneuver while on her big adventure, Ulli is a dynamic character who makes you yearn for that adolescent innocence and adrenaline for travel all over again. You get to experience the rush of running away from home for a dream on the horizon; you feel the fast pace of the novel in bursts of energy that take you from one dynamic character to another; and you witness first-hand the loneliness that sometimes accompanies wistful thoughts.
During one whirlwind summer, lives are changed, lessons learned, life explored, “Should I climb into the next train and go home?… What would I do there? I’ve changed so much, I won’t fit into my old skin. I’d go crazy. There’s no way back. I refuse to surrender, to let the Philistines believe they were right” (284). Lust fully captures that there is no other time nor place than “right here.” Living in the exact moment, a series of fleeting experiences propel Ulli forward into a rich life filled with both realized dreams and tangible nightmares.
Even Lust’s illustrations provoke both emotion and thought as the lines upon the pages create a myriad of personalities with impeccable realistic quality. There are no apologies for the rough etches of street views and gritty beds. The likeness of the characters exude the same outwardly appearance as their own inner personal journeys. The grasp on detail for every little nuance is brilliantly drawn and Lust becomes arguably one of the most inspiring and realistic cartoonists of our time.
Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life reminded me of why I love graphic novels. The plot of sex, drugs, and punk are just icing on the cake. Ein wilder Ritt durch jugendlich Seele suchen. Sensationell!
Ulli Lust was born in Vienna, Austria where she began her work as a cartoonist. Her published work includes comic journalism, poems, and her debut graphic novel Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, which won the 2011 Angoulême “Revelation” prize, and the 2013 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel. She runs the online publishing company Electrocomics, which publishes e-books and online comics by an ever-increasing group of international cartoonists. Originally published in German in 2009, this is her first work to be translated into English.