Time Under Tension is a smart, funny, no bullshit work of autobiography, a story of searching for dignity in a world that rarely affords it and taking agency of adulthood in the face of so many easy excuses not to.
M.S. Harkness is graduating from art school in Minneapolis and facing a crossroads in life. She has a strained relationship with her mother, a sexually abusive father on parole, and is in love with an aspiring MMA fighter who mostly hangs out with her to get high and already has a girlfriend and career prospects with a fight promoter. An art career feels untenable ― as one professor tells her, “Don’t expect to get by on this fucked-up broke girl shit.” She decides to get a personal trainer’s certificate ― it seems like a feasible and sensible career option ― but continues to dabble as a sex worker and weed dealer because the money is too irresistible. With idle hands due to no classes or full-time work, M.S. has ample time to aimlessly fuck around ― or, to get her shit together. “I want to be better, I want to be stable and solid. I don’t want to keep aimlessly shifting between untenable situations.”
Harkness’s bold, precise black-and-white cartooning and eye for storytelling invites the reader in, while her sharp wit and naturalist ear as a writer takes it away from there. Never didactic, always real, Time Under Tension is a spirited and assured work of graphic memoir.
Author/Artist: M.S. Harkness
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Page Count: 264pp
Size: 6 x 7.5
Notes: paperback, signed
Date of Publication: October 24, 2023