Hipster Book Club Review - Haunted

Hipster Book Club    |    Yennie Cheung    |    April 10, 2008

Daydreams aren't easy to control. Even in conscious thought, the mind wanders into ideas that are as nonsensical as those experienced in deep sleep. In Haunted, renowned French artist Philippe Dupuy crosses the blurred line that separates dreams from daydreams, using it to create a work that is as introspective as it is strange.

Dupuy writes himself into his book as a man who takes up jogging the day after experiencing a strange dream. While on these jogs, Dupuy occupies his mind with surreal, highly philosophical stories which he calls "Run Movies." In one of these movies, he has a conversation with a homeless woman who seems to have no eyes but sees him nonetheless, and she teaches him about self-awareness. In another, he urinates in the front yard of a highly educated Buddhist duck going through an identity crisis (as all ducks are wont to do).

In between each "Run Movie" are short stories that often seem more linear but still convey varying degrees of strangeness. In "Forest Friends," a trio of anthropomorphic animals tries to comfort a friend who has lost his arm. Their bumbling attempts at empathy and coping—which include drinking, impotence, and nightmares about quadriplegic peeing—read like a primetime sitcom about moronic twenty-somethings. But the tale is still poignant because their sadness and feelings of ineptitude are absurdly human.

Though the stories are fictional, each work feels intimately autobiographical—a look into the wandering mind of an artist while his body is otherwise engaged. The rough, occasionally childlike black and white drawings further the idea that these images have come to him in a dreamlike state. Settings sometimes appear as no more than quick doodles, as if they are meant to be as abstract as his thoughts.

The title, however, suggests that these dreams are not pleasant ones—that they are demons that stay with him no matter how far he runs. This is especially apparent when Dupuy revisits themes of lost body parts and relationships. One doesn't have to study Freud to see that these dreams may be manifestations of real life troubles. In one "Run Movie," Dupuy finds himself jogging with his dead mother. In another story, a minotaur-like animal wanders a labyrinth, is emasculated by a swarm of maggots, and snaps when it encounters two creatures having sex.

The deeper meanings of Dupuy's stories are sometimes too obvious to be considered particularly deep, but to fault the book for a little amateur psychology would be to miss the point. Haunted doesn't seem to be a work meant to entertain or inform the masses. Instead, it is a work of personal introspection and perhaps an attempt to exorcise the artist's own demons, whether they are fictional or not.

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