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By Leslie Stein. Published by Drawn & Quarterly. 

Hardcover, 168 pages, Colour, 2017.


Leslie Stein takes us on a sinuous urban stroll divorced from destination, glimpsing New York City through her open eyes. While she is closing up a bar late at night, she is also an adolescent at a rave in the mountains, an adult grappling with her grandfather’s fading memory or at one of her first waitressing jobs. Stein is a master storyteller, an urban explorer, and a loyal guide through dark days and simple, blissful encounters. Stein’s curiosity about and generosity toward the world around her come through powerfully: each colorful story flows with vivid watercolors and delicate ink lines. Here, an autobiography is built through memories and moments tied together by loose lines, evoking a beautiful dreamlike yet endlessly relatable glimpse into the world of a thirty-something woman carving out a life for herself, one step at a time.

Known for her acclaimed Eye of the Majestic Creature series, collected here are Stein’s serialized comics which have become a staple for the site, showcasing her storytelling abilities with a freer style. With an introduction and new material, Present will be a deluxe die-cut hardcover that is a meditation on memory. Stein is asking us to take a moment to be here now, while acknowledging the other places and people we always carry with us.

Praise for Present

... [Present] is visually minimalist — yet expansive in terms of honesty and emotion ...

The Hollywood Reporter

...drawn from evanescent moments in daily life and the curious memories they encourage to surface ... immersive, like experiencing the inside of someone else's head ... modest, compassionate epiphanies.

The Globe and Mail

...every page is suffused with empathy, while resisting the saccharine: there are no tidy endings, nor smug moralizing. Stein’s vibrant watercolors are a marvel, especially in the palette: dribbles of cerulean, slashes of black, and dots of deepest crimson are as captivating as any plot twist. Even the lettering tells a story, often exploding on the page in different colors and sizes. It all adds up to a sweet, relatable portrait of the minutiae that make life worth living.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

[Stein's] bright, evocatively colored drawings make everything feel like Christmas morning ... her perpetually optimistic outlook feels like something worth aspiring to ... [it's]impossible to not be affected by what she’s accomplished here. Present was my first introduction to the work of Leslie Stein; it won’t be the last.


Ambiguity, nostalgia, sadness, fear, loneliness, boredom, joy, and love are just some of the universal experiences that Stein communicates in her work through a series of vignettes into her life as a bartender and cartoonist ... [a] dynamic, colorful visual shorthand to its bittersweet portrayal of being human, Present is indeed a gift to the reader.


The drawings in Leslie Stein’s new book, Present, are prismatic, loopy, and effervescent. Her handwritten dialogue, squiggly forms, and watercolor washes are irresistible... I was caught off guard by the aching loneliness that permeates the book’s autobiographical stories... by book’s end, the loneliness feels companionable, like your reflection in a mirror.

Nicole Rudick, Paris Review

Leslie Stein's Present is a collection of diarylike graphic short stories — frank, charming, insightful meditations on daily life that manage to be sentimental but not cloyingly so.

Buzzfeed Books

Although the topics of these autobiographical essays are sometimes heavy, the comics themselves rarely are. Fears of disappointing her parents; her grandfather’s declining health; post-2016-election blues: thanks to [Stein's] light tone, bright palette, and exuberant style, all are taken as they come, moment by moment. Stein’s inventive and utterly unique approach combines rainbow watercolor washes with fine ink line work and lettering ... The result [are] scenes that are abstract yet easily recognizable and an enrapturing backdrop for Stein’s clear and careful storytelling.


With minimalist linework and delicate watercolors ... Stein brings a setting to life with rich color ... [Present] is full of smart artistic choices that illuminate Stein’s feelings in the moment, [in which] readers can discover the full range of her talent.

AV Club
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