MY MOST SECRET DESIRE in Chicago Sun Times

Dreams to Die For: Julie Doucet's night thoughts tap into sex, fear, gender politics and life in the city

The Chicago Sun-Times    |    Jessa Crispin    |    June 8, 2006

Is there anything more boring than someone else's dreams? Someone insists, "Dude, I had the craziest dream last night," and suddenly you're trapped
listening to some incomprehensible tale about opossums, bananas and that guy from "Beverly Hills 90210." Such a subconscious should just not be tapped into.

But in her new collection My Most Secret Desire (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95), Julie Doucet has managed to turn a dream journal into a fascinating
look at gender politics, sex, life in the city and fear.

Originally published in 1995, this updated and expanded reprint reminds us why Doucet is one of the most important cartoonists working today. She is known for her bold content in books like My New York Diary and her comic book series Dirty Plotte. Without the filter of her consciousness, her writing takes on an almost lighter tone. At the end of a particularly odd dream involving her mother and a naked space ride, the last frame shows Doucet in bed, shrugging with a sheepish smile. Even she can't believe what her brain comes up with sometimes.

Even if the stories in My Most Secret Desire weren't really Doucet's dreams, they would work as surreal feminist vignettes. The recurring dreams in which Doucet discovers she has a penis brings her great delight as she learns how to swagger and demand sexual attention. In another series of dreams, Doucet is pregnant, but gives birth to kittens instead of a baby. The dream nurse explains, "I'm very sorry but the hospital is out of babies right now -- a cat's better than nothing, no?" In "The Jack-Knife," Doucet's date takes out a knife, cuts off his penis, and presents it to her as a gift. She thanks him and takes a swift bite out of it while thinking, "I wonder -- do penises grow back?"

Not that they're all heavy, philosophical wonderings. There's also the standard dream of showing up to class on exam day and not having studied, as well as dreams with Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees and Nick Cave. But certainly Freud would love this girl, even though Doucet insists in her loopy French-based English, "I am not too much in the habit of taking dreams as some sending for guidance for my every day life."

Her artwork is thick and inky, filling every available space with litter, leering men, and rats. She's not afraid of drawing gore, whether it be an eye punctured by a hypodermic needle or a cat bisected by a guillotine. My Most Secret Desire is as funny as it is anxious, as repellant as it is intriguing. Her drawing style echoes this, with constant motion and clutter. Each panel holds the balance, with a small girl eating an ice cream cone in the background and a half-dead starving dog in the corner, all adding to the cacophony. Doucet's dreams seem like a noisy place to be, but we should all be grateful she decided to share.

Jessa Crispin is the editor-in-chief of

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