WHITE RAPIDS, PAUL GOES FISHING, & 365 DAYS reviewed by the Montreal Gazette

A look at some new releases from Drawn & Quarterly and Conundrum Press

Montreal Gazette    |    Christine Redfern    |    July 19, 2009

"Art is a very different industry than agriculture, but one that also often promotes and imports the exotic, while local produce withers on the vine. Montreal is known for having the right environment for the development of graphic novels, so I recently packed a bag full of the most recent crop and headed out to the woods to read.

The first question I was asked by one of my fellow forest-dwellers was: "What is a graphic novel?" I'm not sure what he was expecting, but I believe it was more lascivious than my response of "ah... comics." But soon everyone who was old enough to read was poring over the selection of books. At times funny, insightful or dark, they can usually be consumed (though not always digested) in one sitting - perfect summer reading...

White Rapids is the first English translation of award-winning Quebec cartoonist Pascal Blanchet's work. This story uses a minimal number of words, combined with artwork inspired by 20th-century design, architecture and jazz. It is pure eye candy that convincingly takes us back in time. He tells about White Rapids - a company town founded in 1934 on a northern stretch of the St. Maurice River. The Shawinigan Water and Power Company dammed the river and built White Rapids to house its employees and their families. Situated deep in the wilderness, its only link to the outside world for years was by train. Blanchet constructs an idyllic tale of this half-French, half-English town: from its inception, through log drivers, fishing and hunting trips, its first cars, to the changes in technology that ultimately caused its demise in 1971.

Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliati, is once again an English translation of an award-winning French comic - the fourth in his semi-autobiographical Paul series. Rabagliati uses a more traditional comic book style in his work. This latest instalment finds Paul off for a summer vacation at a fishing camp with his pregnant wife. The narrative weaves together moments from his childhood with the adults and children who surround him in the present, as he slowly moves toward becoming a parent himself. You will find yourself identifying many Montreal and Quebec locations when you read this engaging yarn. Also filled with many local places and individuals is 365 Days, a graphic diary by Julie Doucet. Featuring principally ink drawings with the occasional collaged element, this diary offers a portrait of the artist as she travels, contemplates life, buys shoes, creates art and mops her kitchen floor.

For a complete view of what's out there in graphic novels, head over to the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, where all these and many other books can be procured. Or if you want to see some original work, stop by Le Cheval Blanc Brewpub, where an exhibition of birdhouses built and painted by many of Montreal's finest comic artists, including Suicide, just opened.

For further information go to www.conundrumpress.com and www.drawnandquarterly.com or visit the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore located at 211 Bernard St. W., 514-279-2224.

The exhibition Cou Cou runs until Aug. 15 at the Cheval Blanc, 809 Ontario St. E.

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