IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick | A Los Angeles Times Face to Watch | A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Refinery29, The Millions, Huffington Post, Martha Stewart Living, National Post, Chicago Reader, Buzzfeed, The Week, Read it Forward, and Nylon magazine Most Anticipated book
"Radtke is, first and foremost, a superhuman of illustration, a grandmaster like Adrian Tomine or Chris Ware. Her photo-based, exquisitely executed drawings appear more realistic and seductive than photographs could ever hope to be. . . . Not a line is out of place in these drawings, as they depict contemporary reality with uncanny precision. . . . Gorgeously eerie. . . . A portrait of a powerful mind grappling with alienation and loneliness."
—New York Times Book Review
"Remarkable. . . . a breathtaking mix of prose and illustration. . . . Radtke is able to create beautiful if odious universes out of the potential of ruin, finding infinitesimal shades of nuance within a soft, greyscale palette. . . . Stunning."
“In Imagine Wanting Only This you get something wistful, evocative, melancholic. . . . [The book] is very assured, gorgeously done, and meticulous. . . . Just heart-stoppingly beautiful.”
—NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour”
"The most beautiful graphic novel you’ll read all year, Kristen Radtke’s memoir is an absolutely stunning look at what it is to recover from grief, and is so haunting you’ll be thinking about it for days after reading it."
"Brilliant. . . . The book is a family drama, youthful romance, obsessive adventure, and karmic inquiry wrapped in a coming-of-age tale. It's [Radtke's] thumbnail history of left-behind people and places, and a wondrous panel-by-panel archive of the interplay between her rapacious intellect and her expansive imagination. . . . In places, the commingled pictorial and written narrative flows like a film, like a dreamscape, like the river of time itself. It's Radtke's quietly erudite, observant language . . . that grounds her intricate and dramatic drawings. But maps, photographs, medical charts, newspaper clippings, and a free-floating Sharpie embedded in the almost 300-page book enhance the storytelling as they surprise and delight."
"Imagine Wanting Only This [is] one of the most haunting graphic memoirs I've ever read. . . . As we turn the pages on her journey, we are ravaged and ravished. There is a proud tradition of graphic memoirists—of those dually equipped to wield word and image—to tell the true and deeply considered story of a life. Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Riad Sattouf, David Small, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman and others have done it searingly well. Add now to that list Radtke, who proves herself an equal among equals with this debut book. . . . Wonderful and heartbreaking. . . . I’m deeply grateful for the towering power of Radtke's vision.”
"With elegant writing and arresting drawings, Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This . . . grapple[s] with the limits of how much understanding our past can help us comprehend our present. . . . Radtke balances the personal — insomnia, failed love, her own heart ills, and loss — with larger historical forces and events. Her atmospheric black and white drawings shift between close-ups of telling details — a pile of mail on the floor, a single hanging bulb in a garage — and powerful full-page illustrations. She is a master of silhouette and shadow, of negative space, evoking a sense of potent isolation."
“A stunning, honest meditation on loss. . . . Radtke’s book is enchanting.”
"This graphic memoir from New York writer and artist Radtke is one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. Her book combines beautiful illustrations with vibrant prose, telling the story of how the death of her uncle led her to become fascinated with abandoned cities and other ruins."
"Striking. . . . Imagine Wanting Only This is approached as a memoir, but really it's a rumination on ruins. Radtke's debut is part autobiography, part sobering reflection on the temporary nature of life and love, cities and civilizations."
"Kristen Radtke’s serious, haunting Imagine Wanting Only This [is] a long, complex examination of abandonment, the fleetingness of life, the impermanence of everything. . . . It is powerful and bleak, but strangely thrilling."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Remarkable. . . . [Radtke's] book has attracted national attention, and for good reasons. She's both a strong writer and an adept, fluid artist. She has a word lover's eye for found text on jars, postcards, documents, websites, hand-lettering them into her art."
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Radtke isn't an artist who also writes a little or a writer who scrawls but a master of both prose narrative and visual art. Like memory, the narrative loosens the binds of chronology, playing hopscotch through the author's girlhood, college, formative years as an artist, and apocalyptic fantasy of her current home in New York. . . . In a way, what she has done in this impressive book is to revive the dead and recover the lost while illuminating a world in flux, in which change is the only constant. Powerfully illustrated and incisively written—a subtle dazzler of a debut.”
—★ Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"In Imagine Only Wanting This, debuter Radtke explores all manner of devastation—the detritus of a youthful relationship, the aftermath of volcanic eruption, the hollowed-out shell of a church in deeply depressed Gary, IN. . . . Beautifully written, this multidirectional memoir ties threads and minutiae from Radtke’s personal and family history and history writ large to create a tender, drifting reflection on the calamity life is often built on, the nothing it will become, and the breathtaking beauty of lingering between those forgone conclusions. . . . A fantastic example of the graphic novel’s possibilities as a literary medium.”
—★ Library Journal, starred review
"Radtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them. . . . In her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?"
—★ Booklist, starred review
"In a debut graphic memoir with striking black-and-white images, master illustrator and writer Kristen Radtke tells the evocative story of her family's rare genetic heart disorder, the sudden death of her beloved uncle, her travels around the world, and of love won and abandoned. . . . one needs to revisit each page and carefully study the drawings to appreciate fully the depth of Radtke's creative talents.
—★ Shelf Awareness, starred review
"[A] sophisticated graphic memoir, recalling books such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home."
"Radtke's gorgeous graphic memoir ponders ruins and the people and places that are left behind."
—Martha Stewart Living
"The transient beauty and piercing sadness of the ruins is gorgeously portrayed through the combination of word and illustration; graphic memoir feels like the necessary medium for this story. . . . Radtke's life—and the way she beautifully elevates her deeply personal experiences into universal lessons—makes for brilliant, compelling, unforgettable art."
"[A] beautifully sophisticated narrative. . . . [Radtke's] work evinces an incredible grasp of the comics form—more so than even the most storied of comics memoirists. . . . In scene after scene, [she] demonstrates incredible storytelling instincts, which reveal themselves in subtle, nuanced ways. . . . Radtke tells her story with uncommon poise and palpable confidence. . . . offer[ing] her readers ambition, composure, and a deeply felt narrative that unfurls with a grace that most writers only ever dream of."
“The book chronicles Radtke’s journey to ruined cities after the death of her uncle, an unusual pairing that has drawn strong advance reviews. The memoir doesn’t just reflect on her own life story but on the notion of becoming an artist and what it means when people and places are left behind.”
—Los Angeles Times, Faces to Watch 2017
"In her exquisitely soul-, mind-, and heart-shattering debut graphic memoir, Kristen Radtke explore's life's big questions surrounding grief, mortality, and the impermanence of the things--and the people--we love most. . . . That Radtke can treat such timeless and oft-explored topics as death and loss without a touch of cliché is impressive enough, but that she does it with an extraordinary sensitivity and intelligence uniquely her own makes this work a stunning reminder of the power of art to make us feel hopeful as we confront existential terror."
"A miracle and a masterpiece . . . . Radtke is a thrilling cartographer of curiosity, grief, and grace, and Imagine Wanting Only This announces, like a siren in a sleeping city, the arrival of an unforgettable, undeniable talent."
"[A] smart debut memoir, which grafts [Radtke's] fascination with hollowed-out cities onto her family’s history of heart disease. . . . Like Didion, Radtke sets out to situate, with clear-eyed disinterest, her own place within a culture that seems to be falling apart."
—The Globe and Mail
"With evocative black-and-white illustrations, Radtke explores the many ways in which ruin can pervade a life, whether it be mold creeping up the walls of a dilapidated Chicago apartment or the degeneration of the body through illness."
—Poets & Writers
"I tell as many people as possible how cool I think Radtke is, so that when she blows up I’ll have proof that I was ahead of the curve. . . . Her first book is graphic memoir/travelogue about her life, family history, and a trip around the world in search of ruins."
"This hauntingly beautiful graphic novel touches on themes of death, loss, rebuilding, and belonging. The illustrations are so perfect and this has stayed with me ever since I read it."
"An evocative debut and a glorious mashup of genres, Imagine Wanting Only This contains the meandering stories of everyday places that have fallen to ruins — from deserted cities of the American Midwest to an Icelandic town buried in ash to tiny populated islands in the Philippines and beyond. A personal history that takes the shape of graphic illustrations, Radtke's stories take a reader on a winding journey that also traverses the crumbling canals of human history—and the human heart.”
"Kristen Radtke’s graphic memoir is a story of loss, but the Brooklyn-based illustrator’s approach is adventure: the sudden death of Radtke’s uncle spurred her passion for ruins of people and place. Her grief makes good company. In an impressive spread of portfolio work, Radtke’s illustrations tend toward raw vector-drawn portraiture, and sparse samples of her written skill mirror the style with clever, candid observations on their subjects. ”
"[A] haunting graphic memoir, a melancholic meditation on impermanence. . . . Imagine Wanting Only This effectively meshes a distilled, starkly confessional, probing text with an equally eloquent visual element. . . . Radtke’s artwork evokes movie stills more than comic strips, panning cinematographically from full-page landscapes to tightly framed close-ups and intense conversations (often on cellphones). . . . [A] restless ambition to find answers 'or at least information' about the transitory nature of existence defines Radtke’s profoundly contemplative book."
—Barnes & Noble Review
"In her debut book, Kristen Radtke undulates between public and deeply personal observations. Her story begins when she attends her uncle’s funeral near a dilapidated mining town; from there, she sets out to explore abandoned places while contemplating a heart disease many members of her family have suffered from. Loss echoes throughout its illustrated pages, threading disparate corners of the globe together into a touching narrative."
—Huffington Post, Nonfiction Books by Women Everyone Should Read in 2017
"Radtke is certainly not the first to parallel an exploration of photography with that of death. Most famously, Roland Barthes did this in his seminal book Camera Lucida, in which the death of his mother figures heavily into his analysis of photographs as referents. But Radtke interrogates this established reading by contrasting the treatment of printed images and digital ones, extended further to contrast physical and digital detritus. . . . visually and emotionally striking."
"Kristen Radtke’s debut book is one of the most striking and interesting comics of the year."
—Comic Book Resources
"Radtke’s literary debut deserves to sit alongside other popular contemporary memoirs like H Is for Hawk, The Faraway Nearby, and The Empathy Exams. Her compelling visual transmedia storytelling creates intimacy and narrative through the relationship between text and image, which she uses to depict vast emotions, symbolism, thematic impulses, and flashbacks."
"There’s been ample buzz about Imagine Wanting Only This, the debut graphic memoir by illustrator Kristen Radtke. The death of Radtke’s uncle sparks a series of real and metaphorical adventures through ruined cities, which Radtke illustrates in evocative grayscale drawings."
—San Diego Magazine
"The clarity of the book revels in location, and not character. This is a riveting use of memoir. This is as alienating as it is universal, smug as it is generous, a conclusion as much as an opportunity."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Writer, illustrator, and editor Radtke’s graphic memoir does something difficult within just a few minimally designed, emotional pages: she transforms the over-studied experience of being a talented artist stuck in that yearning gulf between college’s purpose and life’s demands into something unique and thuddingly real. . . . Delivered with an unusually forthright honesty and deft, Chris Marker–esque ability to parse out meaning and wonder from the smallest details.”
"This graphic novel/memoir takes readers on an incredible journey, both to places ranging from Iceland to the Philippines, but also into the dark recesses of the mind and the heart.”
—Nylon magazine, Most Anticipated Books of 2017
"[Imagine Wanting Only This is] everything I want in a comic. It's thoughtful, personal and haunted."
—Shelf Awareness, Booksellers Recommend: Winter & Spring Nonfiction
"Kristen Radtke has caught the attention of the right kinds of people with her debut graphic novel, Imagine Only Wanting This. Places that have been abandoned by memory and the people who once called them home fascinate Radtke, who travels from the Midwest to Iceland to the Philippines to New York City in this cross-genre nonfiction work. It's worlds more than a travelogue, though — it's also a journey through grief, memory, and family. If the fact that it's illustrated turns you off, resist."
"After spotting an abandoned mining town following her beloved uncle’s funeral, illustrator Kristen Radtke began a lifelong obsession with ruins—the traces of places that civilization has abandoned. In this genre-bending graphic novel, Radtke takes us on a round-the-world tour of deserted cities and ruined places, drawing them in black and white and musing on the people and places left behind, while also pondering larger questions of grief, identity and human suffering."
—Read it Forward
"Kristen Radtke is a thoughtful, unapologetically intelligent graphic writer. . . . compelling, refreshing and unique."
Advance Praise from Writers:
“Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This doesn’t tell a single story but a chorus of histories, personal and familial and historical, and invents its own marvelous language for their telling—a language forged from interior thought and visual imagination, bringing together words and illustration in continually surprising and moving ways. The voice in these pages is eloquent in so many ways at once, like a shape that exists in three dimensions rather than two, and it’s utterly singular: visually alive, attentive to details, self-questioning and tender as it surveys variously haunted terrains of heart and landscape. Radtke’s world is so immersive, and so sensitively conjured, that once I entered the sketched chamber of her pages, I didn’t want to leave again—or even pause for breath—until I reached the end.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
"Riveting and glorious. A book of sorrow filtered through intellect. In Kristen Radtke’s hands, nonfiction becomes poetry. A tremendous achievement.”
—Tom Hart, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rosalie Lightning
"Cities, ambitions, romances, and bodies come to ruin before our eyes, as Kristen Radtke invites us, in her beautifully understated way, to be disturbed, fascinated, and yes, even attracted to that ruin. A remarkable bildungsroman!”
—Eula Biss, author of On Immunity
"Kristen Radtke leads us through a bleak and beautifully crafted story of heart and heartbreak—creation, connection, decay, and loss. Imagine Wanting Only This is challenging and inspiring.”
—Ellen Forney, New York Times bestselling author of Marbles
Advance Praise from Booksellers:
"I may be a bit demanding, for I want only this: a book that comes alive on the page, that shows instead of tells, that gives me more than what I'm what asking for. My wishes came true in Kristen Radtke's graphic novel, Imagine Wanting Only This. I was continuously struck by Radtke's unending and unapologetic explorations of the ruins that litter our lives and puncture our curious and very personal understandings of home. This book is beautiful, intelligent, and very much alive."
—Claire Tobin, Literati Bookstore
"Imagine Wanting Only This will enchant and amaze its every reader. Radtke stunningly braids her gifts as a verbal and visual artist, her book a perfect marriage of the written and drawn line. Formally, she smashes all the rules to pieces—photographs overlay illustrations, questions are exalted over their answers, and identity's learned from not only the spaces we fill, but "the spaces we cannot cannot imagine." Here's what the New American Essay's capable of. Here, too, is what the ragged borderline of genre looks like. What Radtke does so shockingly well, page after page, panel after panel, is show the reader the enormous significance (invented, or drawn, or not) of nothing-spaces."
—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books
"Kristen Radtke's Imagine Wanting Only This is about loss and ruins and love. It's a poignant and visually stunning exploration of the places and people we leave behind, but that leave indelible traces. It's a book that speaks to our fraught historical moment in a graceful way. It's a rare thing: a masterpiece of form and function."
—Stephen Sparks, Point Reyes Books
"Like a cross between Leslie Jamison and Alison Bechdel, in this graphic memoir Kristen Radtke takes the best of the contemporary essay and brings her story to life with clean and evocative illustrations. Imagine Wanting Only This is a travelogue of displacement, following Radtke to abandoned mining towns, bombed-out ruins, and a lava-covered Icelandic island. What grounds it all, though, is the way Radtke examines what motivates her restlessness: the death of her uncle from a rare genetic mutation, and the breakdown of a relationship. Kristen Radtke is a many-talented literary artist, and this remarkable debut will stay with me."
—Travis Smith, Flyleaf Books
"Kristen Radtke's debut graphic novel is a somber meditation on loss and decay. Utilizing an abstracted, realistic drawing style, Imagine Wanting Only This feels like memories of real people and places. Radtke eschews any caricature or exaggeration in her character design, keeping them grounded, but allows for poetic flourishes in her layouts and text. The result is a beautiful but honest elegy for loved ones lost and the world around us as a whole."
—Chris Andersen, Watermark Books