Hipster Book Club | Marie Mundaca | February 22, 2008
365 Days reviewed by Hipster Book Club
Before the age of blogs, reading someone's journal was a special, illicit treat. For true fans of the journal, there were the diaries of Samuel Pepys, a Seventeeth Century member of the British Parliament whose published diaries and correspondence spanned ten years and multiple volumes dealing with mostly mundane topics. Today, many people put large chunks of their lives online, and we can all be privy to their gossip, scandals, and deepest thoughts. But at all times, the bloggers knows that their writing is for an audience, and they censor and edit based on the image they are trying to project.
This is what makes Julie Doucet's 365 Days, her illustrated diary from November 2002 to November 2003, such a charming book—it is both an homage to the Pepys style of journaling, cataloging the minutiae of her day, and like a blog. Her friends are only identified by the initials of their first names, and one of her friends has been requested to be drawn with a bear head.
Montreal-born Julie Doucet has been a recognizable force in underground comics since winning Best New Talent at the Harvey Awards in 1991. Her best-known works are her autobiographical comics: the graphic book My New York Diary and the comic book Dirty Plotte. Doucet has been a polarizing figure for much of her career. Her brutal portrayal of her romantic relationships has caused some to label her a man-hater. Her comics were sometimes held up by Canadian Customs. And in 2006, she declared that she would never draw comics again, saying "I just don't understand… how you can spend 50 years of your artist life doing the same thing over and over again."
365 Days was begun by Doucet specifically as a project for publication, and so readers see some of the development of the project in real time, like when she brings her first few pages to her publisher, Drawn and Quarterly, and gets what she feels is a less than enthusiastic response. Doucet's reason for the project was simple—she needed money. As a full-time artist, she lives mostly off grant money, and throughout the book there is much fretting about grant applications and selling art. There are months when Doucet makes no money at all. Although her life sometimes seems quite glamorous—My New York Diary has been optioned for film, she spends her days at an art studio working on linoleum prints, she goes to Paris—much of the time she is worrying about how she will pay for things.
365 Days retains much of the trademark Doucet illustration style—people have large, expressive heads and hypnotic eyes, and backgrounds are chaotic. But 365 Days has a cleaner line than much of her typically darker and visually heavier comic work. The book production and design is amazing—it is printed in two colors, with blue lines on each page to emulate the look of a notebook. It also has four color printed endpapers, and the small trim size and heavy paper give the book a feel that is both cute and substantial.
Even though each page is illustrated, it is not a quick nor light read. Most pages are delightfully cluttered with text and complex illustrations, and many require the book to be turned sideways, making it easy for readers to be absorbed by each entry.
In 365 Days, Doucet never whitewashes herself, or her life. She draws herself vomiting, with chapped lips and saggy breasts, her bangs curling weirdly or sticking to her forehead. She reads her horoscope and tarot cards with the obsession of a teenager, then dismisses the predictions because they always say the same thing. Her combination of naïveté, insecurity and self-awareness make 365 Days incredibly compelling