The story of an art student working in a diner is a familiar trope, and for anyone who has worked in any creative field, it has a truth. Over Easy by Mimi Pond isdescribed by the publisher, Drawn and Quarterly, as “fictionalized memoir”, and it straddles that divide nicely. There is a sense that it is lived experience, but the lives of some of the customers and the other workers in the diner seem to be heightened.
Madge starts out studying art at San Diego Community College, but needing to move away from home, she transfers to California College of the Arts in Oakland. Until she gets a letter in her last year saying that there is no more financial aid, she is trying to make her way as an artist. It is at this point when she talks her way into a dish washing job at the Imperial Cafe. Lazlo, the general manager, makes new hires tell him bad jokes, and Madge’s is bad. She is the observer of the other workers and the customers watching as they go through bad and worse relationships, show bad and worse attitudes towards one another, and yet, despite tensions, the group are close, and Madge is drawn into the community bad and good.
Pond’s drawings have an wide-eyed innocence about them even when they are recounting sex in tatty flats and and the difficulty of making ends meet. Madge eventually becomes a waitress, and the story ends at poetry reading organized by Lazlo. At this point, Madge has a gig drawing for the weekly paper with all the sex ads, but she is moving on. Pond went on to become a television writer, cartoonist and illustrator. This is her first graphic novel. A life re-imagined. A story well told. Wry humour, with the real frustration of trying to make it when you don’t know where you are heading.