Time Under Tension (Paperback)

Time Under Tension By M.S. Harkness Cover Image
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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.

About the Author

M.S. Harkness was born in Oklahoma and lives in Columbus, Ohio. She has been featured on the New Yorker's “Daily Shouts Page,” is a recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Visual Artist Grant, and occasionally teaches comics at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Her previous works include Tinderella and Desperate Pleasures (both from Uncivilized Books).

Praise For…

Harkness delivers one of the best releases of 2023 in this exhilarating, heartbreaking, and often humorous memoir.
— Library Journal Starred Review

Harkness’s work is consistently tough, funny, and candid, and this plunge into the depths of her gloriously messy life is her strongest outing yet.
— Publishers Weekly

Harkness reaches for something deeper and more emotionally resonant [and] proves she is a cartoonist worth watching.
— The Comics Journal

M.S. Harkness is quickly establishing herself as perhaps the premier comics memoirist of our time.
— Solrad

A profound and confident memoir... one of the most remarkable releases of 2023.
— Women Write About Comics

With Time Under Tension, Harkness stops being an ‘artist to watch’ and becomes one who we are watching ascend to the next level. Her craft is sharp, incisive, and as dark as her humor; her storytelling acidic yet poignant, laying bare her life in a way that most memoir work flinches away from. This isn’t sad-girl bullshit — this is the truth, in literal black and white.

— Laurenn McCubbin (Chair, Comics & Narrative Practice, Columbus College of Art & Design)

Harkness is a smart, tough, fearless cartoonist.
— Kevin Huizenga (A River at Night)

With this book, M.S. Harkness has elevated her work to the elusive ‘next-level.’ The drawings and pages are beautifully designed and rendered deftly; both the artwork and story possess a true sense of weight, volume, solidity, and presence, while somehow retaining touches of whimsy (that hair!) and wit (so many telling and perceptive conversations, all captured perfectly). Time under Tension is heartbreaking, unsentimental, unpretentious, forthright, brutal, fragile, even shocking. We are not kept at a distance; rather, we live inside the story with these characters, as they struggle to understand others, themselves, and life.

— Ivan Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice and Aesthetics: A Memoir)
Product Details
ISBN: 9781683968962
ISBN-10: 1683968964
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Publication Date: October 24th, 2023
Pages: 264
Language: English