Lust's follow-up to her first internationally lauded graphic memoir, How I Tried to Be a Good Person, recounts her life as a young, enthusiastic anarchist making her way in Vienna in the 1990s - and of her love for two men: the "perfect companion" Georg, an actor twenty years her elder, and the "perfect lover," Kimata, a Nigerian man-about-town. As her relationships with the two men evolve, jealousy increasingly mounts and leads to emotional and violent outbreaks that threaten her life.
... the new book is significantly different and, in many ways, better ... The title isn’t made very clear until the book is done, and even then it’s more of a feeling than an obvious statement. How did she try? Did she fail? What’s coming next? You could call this a weakness, that she doesn’t really like to spell things out—it’s not a very reflective book, even though it’s written looking back at an older self—but it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe it’s that it’s not a conspicuously reflective book. Lust lets those feelings that she evokes do a lot of the work ... One of her great innovations in How I Tried to Be a Good Person is her use of full-page splash pages to break up the story. They don’t advance the narrative, but they change your reading of the book by messing with the pace at which you would otherwise go through it ... It’s hard to translate personhood into an abstracted form like comics, which naturally simplifies the complicated edges of things, but this book does it.
In contrast to the formal experimentation of her novel-adaptation, Voices in the Dark (2017), Lust presents her own story with a straightforward graphic approach; her two-colored drawings are loose, rough, and a bit naive, just like her younger-self protagonist. Lust’s bluntly honest account grants us a look at a courageous but alarming life that few would want to experience but are pruriently amenable to observing from a distance.
... the overwhelming impression for the reader is of a youthful experiment gone monstrously wrong. Georg is so decent, and Kimata so despicable, you can’t help but wonder why she returns to him again and again. But this is unfair. How powerful is desire. We need it so badly – without it, life is sludgy and grey – and yet, it can induce us to make such bad decisions, particularly when we are young. Lust’s drawings of her encounters with Kimata are highly explicit – this isn’t, I must warn you, a book to be breezily flipped open on the bus or the train – without ever being gratuitous ... As a leftist anarchist who disapproves of the Austrian state, our heroine is determined to do right by this new immigrant even when he does wrong by her. But in the end, Lust’s energetic, searching book has at its heart the question, still not fully answered, of why fulfilling their needs so often leaves women feeling so abject, so utterly undone.