I'll Be Dead by the Time You Read This
Be Dead by the Time You Read This: The Existential Life of Animals isn't a graphic novel or even a
graphic short story collection. Maybe it's best described as a graphic poetry
collection: When Alaeff adds a line of dialogue to his stand-alone
illustrations of a cat or jellyfish or ram, he creates something more resonant
than a caption. The key to understanding (and laughing and going "Ouch!"
with recognition at) these creations is reading the introduction, in which Alaeff
describes how he collected bits of overheard conversations between his fellow
humans. These verbal snippets, which sounded "bittersweet if not downright
tragic," led him to think it was "a bit absurd that we regularly
torture ourselves with thoughts that seem at odds with our well-being."
And so he attached them as bubbles over the heads of nonhumans. Thus, a bear
will mournfully say, "Everyone seems so young all of a sudden," or a
so-called proud lion will tell himself, "I need to shut up." One of
the marvels of the book is that the more you read, the more you smile, and then—bam!—suddenly
you're wondering if you're the cheetah or the snail. My advice: Identify with
the bumblebee who claims, "I know there's happiness in me somewhere."
— Leigh Newman