Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt and How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis

Covered: Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt, How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis

So I can’t remember how I found Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt. I know it was listed on the Comics Journal’s neverending “best of 2016” list, but I started reading it before I ever read that. I only read that blog post in August, and I got Hot Dog Taste Test out of the library back in April. I only read the first 20 pages, then returned it, with more pressing items on my must-read list at the time. Then, I saw it on the TCJ best of 2016 list and remembered that I had wanted to read it, and requested it from the library again. This time, with a little focus I finished it. But I still don’t know how I found it.

I found How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis through the Slate and the Center for Comics Studies 2016 Studio Prize Short List. How to Be Happy wasn’t on that list–the book was published in 2014–but another comic of Davis’s, Libby’s Dad, was listed on it. And since Libby’s Dad wasn’t available through the library and How to Be Happy is, well, Bob’s your uncle.

One of the opening images of HOW TO BE HAPPY

So I started reading Hot Dog Taste Test and, while I was doing that, I was also picking through comics at the local library like I always do, getting new books, returning them before I have a chance to read them, etc. etc. And I could do about 25 pages of Hot Dog Taste Test before I needed something else. Not just a break, but another flavor, texture, whatever. How to Be Happy was on my desk because I’d borrowed it that day so I did 20 pages of that after the 20 pages of Hanawalt.

How to Be Happy quickly took over. I read it in 2 or 3 sittings, re-reading most of the stories. I rambled through Davis’s tumbler. I read the TCJ interview and listened to her on the Inkspots podcast. That book had such a grip on my emotions and imagination that for about 4 days, she was the most important person in the entire world outside of my family.

All of this makes the Hanawalt book sound like I didn’t like it, which isn’t true at all. It reminds me of the kind of deep-seated urban cynicism that I loved reading about in the Believer a 15 years ago, the whole project glazed with irreverent precociousness. It’s an emotional plane that I used to inhabit a lot, which makes it harder to spend long periods of time there now. But this is more about me than it is about Hot Dog Taste Test, I realize. And so off to bed.