The personal graphic novel has been an exciting genre for years now. From Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi to Marbles by Ellen Forney and, more recently, big beautiful female theory by Eloise Grills, there’s something immediate, intimate and relatable about these mixtures of texts and words, and in seeing the handwriting and self-portraits of the creator. Sarah Firth’s personal essays, Eventually Everything Connects highlights everything that’s so resonant about this form.
Firth is radically relatable as her essays traverse both contemporaneous and ancient questions about what it is to be human. How do we derive fun and joy from mundane tasks like scooping up cat poop and other forms of domestic labour? How should we deal with the pull of the internet and its overstimulating set of ads, devastating news, influencer smug and cute pictures of ducks? How do we find comfort in the erotic when it is also marred by confusion and slut shaming? What do we make of death, decay and change? What do we do in a constant state of political and environmental emergency when we are each just one person? Who are you, and how can your sense of self accommodate your contradictions?
“Essay” comes from the French verb, essayer, to try. Wise essays, such as Firth’s, don’t so much as definitively answer these impossible questions as they make an attempt to come to terms with their complexities. These grand topics are made more immediate by specific images: a teen drug nook under a roof tile, the repeating swirls Firth draws of the natural world, the bogong moth. Firth comes to a sense of the universal by relating it to the events of her own life.
Through this mode of storytelling, which is funny and light-hearted even though the topics are lofty, Firth makes unusual, but canny connections. For example, the First Nations practice of harvesting bogong moths after drawing them to a fire, is compared with obsessive internet use, and the attraction of the light beamed from a smartphone screen.
Firth’s illustrations are particularly strong in conveying these connections snappily. When cat biscuits fall on the floor, a whole microbiome and universe is apparent in one. Firth wonders, ‘What everyone is doing right now?’ And we are invited to witness tiny scenes of life across space and time zones: a dog waiting by the door, people at various forms of work, people alone, with friends, with family. Through these tiny scenes – and through the essay collection – we start to see parts of the ungraspable, and understand them anew.
Eventually Everything Connects: Eight Essays on Uncertainty, Sarah Firth
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Paperback: 288 pp
Publication: 3 October 2023