Seek you A journey through American loneliness

Kristen Radtke

Book - 2021

"When Kristen Radtke was in her twenties, she learned that, as her father was growing up, he would crawl onto his roof in rural Wisconsin and send signals out on his ham radio. Those CQ calls were his attempt to reach somebody--anybody--who would respond. In Seek You, Radtke uses this image as her jumping off point into a piercing exploration of loneliness and the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another. She looks at the very real current crisis of loneliness through the lens...es of gender, violence, technology, and art. Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to Instagram to Harry Harlow's experiments in which infant monkeys were given inanimate surrogate mothers, Radtke uncovers all she can about how we engage with friends, family, and strangers alike, and what happens--to us and to them--when we disengage."--

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Subjects
Genres
Graphic novels
Nonfiction comics
Social issue comics
Psychological comics
Published
New York : Pantheon Books [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
352 pages : chiefly illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 347-352).
ISBN
9781524748067
1524748064
Main Author
Kristen Radtke (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In some ways an extension of her acclaimed graphic novel debut, Imagine Wanting Only This (2017), which explored ideas of decay and its aftermath, Radtke's second work of wide-ranging, visual nonfiction storytelling examines isolation as a social, biological, and personal phenomenon. The hard-to-define concept of loneliness, Radtke writes, is a variance that rests in the space between the relationships you have and the relationships you want. In graphic-essay style, Radtke centers her inquiry around four human behaviors—listen, watch, click, and touch—and devotes rich, meandering chapters to each. "Listen," for instance, ponders the TV laugh track, invented because humans are less likely to laugh alone. "Watch" moves from the American obsession with a certain cowboy sensibility to a spread filled with real headlines describing the perpetrators of mass shootings as loners. For "Click," Radtke posits that the much-maligned exaggeration social media encourages existed in all the technological advances before it, and "Touch" contemplates the life and experiments of Harry Harlow, who tested the often devastating limits of estrangement in baby monkeys. In a limited palette of black, blues, and peaches, Radtke's crisp, vector-drawn illustrations more than hint at reality; rather, in their layering and arrangement, they seem to reproduce it in truer, more emotional detail. Provocative and companionable, this will spark conversation and, undoubtedly, connection among readers. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

"When I started writing this book in 2016," writes Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This) at the beginning of this timely volume, "rates of loneliness had already been increasing exponentially for decades, yet it wasn't a subject I heard people talk about very often, at least not in relation to themselves." In often poetic prose accompanied by stunning illustration, Radtke weaves together personal anecdotes and examples drawn from physical and mental health studies to create a meditation on the causes and cost of isolation. A brief history of the television sitcom laugh track segues into a reflection on the comedies Radtke watched as a child and how they shaped her understanding of love and friendship, which leads to a discussion of the health issues associated with prolonged loneliness and then an explanation of how American media glorifies loners such as Mad Men's Don Draper. Later, an examination of social rejection as a source of aggression and irrationality prefaces revelations about Radtke's personal relationships, an analysis of the popularity of artist Yayoi Kusama, and thoughts on social media and parenthood. VERDICT An insightful and compassionate investigation of loneliness, which Radke convincingly calls "one of the most universal things any person can feel." Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

As Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This) notes at the outset of this gripping graphic investigation, she had no way of knowing, when she began researching isolation in 2016, how on-trend her topic would become. Combining personal narrative with social science, evolutionary biology, and pop culture analysis, Radtke's work is innovative in form and painfully relevant in content. People who are socially isolated die sooner in numbers that cannot be explained simply by slip-and-falls or unchecked vices, she notes. "We need to feel deeply troubled when we observe minor social shuns so we can correct our behavior," she says, drawing convincing lines from loneliness to totalitarianism (citing Hannah Arendt) and mass shootings. She devotes a large section to Harry Harlow, whose famous studies of baby rhesus monkeys' need for affection contradicted early 20th-century messaging that cuddling one's children was unhygienic. Radtke's astute observations about social media implicate herself yet extend gentleness to her fellow lonely humans. (For example, Radtke recounts looking down on selfie-takers at an art exhibit only to end up taking one herself.) Somber illustrations range from journalistic to starkly symbolic, in variations on gray that establish a flat and lonely world, making the gradient sunset hues that sometimes burst through that much brighter. As a montage of people's faces blends together, the effect enacts the book's hopeful thesis that loneliness can be a catalyst for connection. For a treatise about the perils of being alone, it creates a wonderful sense of being drawn into conversation. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (July) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"When Kristen Radtke was in her twenties, she learned that, as her father was growing up, he would crawl onto his roof in rural Wisconsin and send signals out on his ham radio. Those CQ calls were his attempt to reach somebody--anybody--who would respond. In Seek You, Radtke uses this image as her jumping off point into a piercing exploration of loneliness and the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another. She looks at the very real current crisis of loneliness through the lenses of gender, violence, technology, and art. Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to Instagram to Harry Harlow's experiments in which infant monkeys were given inanimate surrogate mothers, Radtke uncovers all she can about how we engage with friends, family, and strangers alike, and what happens--to us and to them--when we disengage. With her distinctive, emotionally charged drawings and unflinchingly sharp prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully reframes some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From the acclaimed author of Imagine Wanting Only This—a timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a societyThere is a silent epidemic in America: loneliness. Shameful to talk about and often misunderstood, loneliness is everywhere, from the most major of metropolises to the smallest of towns. In Seek You, Kristen Radtke's wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains. Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art, Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share. Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to the rise of Instagram, the bootstrap-pulling cowboy to the brutal experiments of Harry Harlow, Radtke investigates why we engage with each other, and what we risk when we turn away. With her distinctive, emotionally-charged drawings and deeply empathetic prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully shines a light on some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments, and asks how we might keep the spaces between us from splitting entirely.