Book Review: “Goodbye, Again”

 With ruminations on productivity, loneliness, and farewells, “Goodbye, Again” is the perfect read for any pending pandemic graduate.

“Goodbye, Again,” put most simply, and most obviously, is a book about goodbyes. This might seem particularly apparent, considering the title, but what does it really mean to say “Goodbye?” Are all goodbyes permanent, or are some temporary? How do we unpack the joys and sorrows of each? What roles do goodbyes play in our everyday lives? Author Jonny Sun explores these questions in his newest book of short essays on temporary experiences and toxic work culture.

Sun is no stranger to the existential question. In his previous solo book, a graphic novel entitled “everyone’s a aliebn, when you’re a aliebn too,” Sun utilizes a little alien protagonist so unsure of who they’re to become that they question all kinds of creatures and beings about their existences, including Nothing. In his previous collaborative book, “Gmorning, Gnight!,” Sun illustrates Lin Manuel Miranda’s famous tweets to open and close the day, breathing visual life to these tiny musings about the everyday. Now in this most recent addition, “Goodbye, Again” allows Sun to take an even more personal approach with his existential explorations, baring his soul open in a display of anxieties through the conveyance of familial memories, egg recipes, propagated plants, friendly conversations, apartment tours, recurring dreams, yogurt indecisions, promised loves, and so much more.

Particularly hard-hitting sections of the book relate to the temporality of living in a variety of places and the anxieties surrounding transition and capitalist culture. “Living in a place feels like it’s bookended by parallel experiences,” Jonny Sun writes, and “You can’t outrun sadness because sadness is already everywhere. Sadness isn’t the visitor, you are” (Sun 4, 7). Sun’s relationship to the physical space around him imbues us with the notion that we are never permanent and sets us up with a specific unease about accomplishment and satisfaction to be thoroughly explored in the rest of the book.

However, the whole book isn’t just existential dread. Two of the most striking sections of the book, in both writing and illustration, revolve around items passed down to Sun by his parents. These items are recipes for how to cook eggs — specifically tea eggs — and propagated plants from Sun’s parents’ houseplant collection. In the egg recipe section, Sun describes several different ways to prepare eggs, and recounts memories of being fed the eggs, and memories of receiving the recipes from his parents. In the plant section, Sun draws through the main plants in his parents’ house, and recalls a specific cactus that he fell in love with as a boy, a cactus that his parents had rescued from mites or spiders and taken care of ever since. What makes these sections so inviting, and so intimate, are that they’re both deeply tied to Sun’s relationship with his parents, and how he wishes so deeply to preserve it. They both demonstrate a retrospective care that Sun notices his parents always having provided him with. 

As someone about to graduate from UC San Diego, this book was full of moments that tapped at my tear ducts. I think of all the campus rooms I’ve ever lived in, all the people I’ve met, the pressures I’ve faced, and what I’ve hopefully accomplished before leaving. I’ve come to realize that everything and nothing mattered in the best and most honest ways possible. This book is a great reminder to not let productivity culture ever best you, and to invest in the small lovely moments of everyday living that make goodbyes ultimately difficult, but ultimately worthwhile.

Author: Jonny Sun
Published: April 14, 2020
Grade: A

Image courtesy of shondaland.com.