Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #198 by Drew Barth

Cat Time

How much time do we actually have? We sleep, roughly, eight hours and work for an additional nine. But then we have overtime and all the preparations for getting to work and the chores we need to deal with to keep our homes livable and, at the end of that, do we even have time left? As much as we want, we can’t fit everything into our days—at least not as much as we would like. But Genie Liang’s A Cat’s Day seems to have found the answer to where we can make up all of that lost time. Or, rather, it starts out that way.

Samo has been working away from her grandmother’s house and her brother for a while now. She wants to visit them more often, but the train from the city is a long trip and she just doesn’t have the time anymore. Work is work. She’s started a new job sorting people’s hard drives and doesn’t know how much longer she’ll be able to stay. Sure, the pay’s decent enough, but everyone else there does their work so quickly. How can anyone have the time to work and do everything else they need? This is where Samo meets a cat, a day planner, and a stamp. She still has the same amount of time in a day, but she can move those times around to where she needs them most. All those hard drives at work can be done over the weekend and then brought back in time to present as if she had done them over a couple hours.

What sells this sense of time travel and the lack of time we have with that is how Liang panels her work. From the precise grids of the day planner to the dynamics of the time travel itself once Samo starts to lose control of their time again, everything points toward the idea of trying to work within time’s contraints. These more manic pages give us a sense of the work and the panic that comes with trying to fit as much as possible into a finite amount of time. But as Samo progresses in the story, we see this eventual breaking of the panels entirely and a shift to floating in space while time and life disappear around her. It’s the breaking of this cycle of time and the freedom for prioritizing personal time over working overtime again and again.

A Cat’s Day is one of those graphic novels that gives you a certain amount of pause. You read it, you enjoy it, you slip it onto your shelf as a good book. But it’s the kind of book that lingers—you begin to think of your own time and how much you spread it around. Your calendar looks more full than it did before, those overtime hours seem like they’re taking up more time than the did before. And you find yourself clearing that calendar out for your own cat’s day. 

Get excited. Get a break.

_______

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.