I often ask my friends what they do when they’re reading a book they aren’t enjoying. It happens to all of us. We start reading, expecting to be captivated from the first page to the last, but for various reasons, we find it hard to keep going. Perhaps the writing is too dry, the story too dull, or we just don’t understand it. Some of my friends are book-finishers, determined that no book they start will
be abandoned, no matter how torturous it is to keep reading. Others have no qualms about tossing a book to the side almost immediately if it doesn’t hold their attention. Some have a strict page-number rule, allowing them to give up on the book if they don’t feel invested by, for example, page 25. I follow this one, giving an author a generous 100 pages to woo me.
It’s different, however, when the book is one assigned in a class. I always finish those. It’s not too bad if the story is just a dull one, but when it’s one I don’t understand, I find myself searching for guidance. Such was the case after reading Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino. For lack of a better phrase, I just didn’t get it. One of my major issues was the title, as it didn’t seem to fit the comics within. I found an interview with the author on Smash Pages where she admits the title is obscure and was chosen for attention. I also learned the first eight “books” of Sex Fantasy were each created and printed as separate mini-comics (the final two are exclusive to the book). Rather than trying to take the story in as a whole, I set about re-reading by focusing on each individual book as well as the sections Foster-Dimino split them into.
I came away with a much deeper appreciation of the book as well as admiration for Foster-Dimino’s artistry and storytelling. In Sex-Fantasy, I see a movement from how people view themselves in positive terms to the self-doubt and negativity that creeps in. I see the various relationships people develop and/or endure in their search for love. Foster-Dimino confirms this, stating all the mini-comics address the ideas of identity and intimacy. I see this most powerfully in book four of Sex Fantasy, where harmful self-talk and depression takes the physical forms of other women. Foster-Dimino’s simple black and white drawings and sparse statements allow the reader to concentrate on the message being delivered.
All of her work shares the same focus on identity and intimacy. Foster-Dimino regularly posts new comics to her Tumblr. The latest, titled “Small Mistakes Make Big Problems,” addresses an abusive relationship and the aftermath of abortion. She uses her comics to bring awareness to important issues and speak her truth, which I personally believe is so important and needed, especially from women writers. After initially grumbling over this book, I’m glad I gave it a second chance. Perhaps I need to throw out my 100-page rule and instead of merely reading through, stop and learn the author’s intentions and creative drive. It could make all the difference.
Links to Online References