Review by Frank Plowright
To begin with the positive, a glance at any of the over 400 pages shows how talented Emi Lenox is. Her cartooning captures personalities and moods astutely, and as this is Lenox’s diary there are hundreds of self-portraits covering many moods, and the further she dives into Emitown the more ambitious the page designs and compositions become. The cartooning improves also, starting well, and becoming even better the more pages are drawn. And Lenox is dedicated. She doesn’t hit every day over an eighteen month period of her life, but few are missing.
So, with all that charm, Emitown has with a lot going for it. Unfortunately, though, it quickly becomes obvious that the art only takes Emitown so far. Most diaries are private, as they’re places for the writer to consider their life and work out problems without others interfering. Honesty is essential, and if made public that honesty could annoy, disappoint and distress others, yet that’s still the way someone feels. Posthumously published diaries are frequently upsetting for those who knew the writer. There’s no chance of that with Emitown because Lenox’s sketched journal provides very little about herself, her feelings or her thoughts about others. Nor does it provide any context by even revealing who other named people are beyond their being listed as friends. We learn Lenox loves a bean burrito and a drink with friends, there’s a nail in the street she frequently trips over, and she’s a Conan O’Brien fan. Almost everything remains doggedly on that obvious and superficial level. For 400 pages.
It’s not as if Lenox doesn’t realise this. The right sample page is a rare glimpse of self-awareness that she may be producing a diary, but because it’s published on her webpage it’s for an audience, and she doesn’t really want to give that audience much. That’s all well and good when the audience is getting something for free online, but the list price for the print volume is $25.
Right at the end entries reveal something more as Lenox confides she’s having a bad couple of days and tears are flowing. A combination of a speeding ticket, parking ticket and flat tyre set things off, but if there’s any greater sorrow behind these annoyances readers aren’t going to hear about it.
For all that Lenox divulges nothing, this collection is proof her pages connected with enough people online, and there’s an Emitown Volume 2, so alternative opinions are out there. If you feel you might connect with Emitown, why not check a few strips on the blog first?