Books

'Reunion' Is as Flat as a Soda with No Carbonation

The protagonist's classmates at the reunion are by and large a superficial and not very interesting bunch, but then again, so is he.


Reunion

Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Length: 156 pages
Author: Pascal Girard
Price: $19.95
Format: Trade paperback
Publication date: 2011-04
Amazon

This is a tedious story, tediously told, about a tedious main character. The art is uninspired and the story is thinner than a wafer. Besides that, it's a great book.

Reunion, by Pascal Girard, is an apparently autobiographical story—the main character's name is Pascal Girard, which is a tipoff—but there isn't anything so compelling in his situation as to suggest why the author/artist chose himself as his own protagonist. As a 40-page slice-of-life tale, this might have elicited a few wry smiles and some moments of, "Oh yeah, I know what that's like." But at nearly four times that length, the story just shuffles ponderously along.

The story is a simple one. Girard is a cartoonist living with his girlfriend when he receives the invitation to his ten-year high school reunion. This sends him into a spiral of self-doubt and self-loathing: he is too fat, too unsucessful, too warty (a wart appears on his thumb and resists all subsequent efforts to tame it). He begins jogging compulsively, which causes his feet to ache. He loses weight and buys clothes exactly like the ones he already owns, only smaller in size, and then worries that he should have waited and gotten yet another size or two down. He obsesses about all the people he knew in high school, who--surprise!--were all variations of horrible.

The reason he's doing all this? For the promise of meeting his unrequited high-school crush, Lucie. She contacts him out of the blue one day via email, and there follows a clandestine, quasi-illicit almost-affair. This all sounds more interesting than it really is.

After 70-odd pages of buildup for both Girard and the reader, the big day finally arrives. Girard borrows his dad's truck and drives to the cabin where the event is being held. It's not giving anything away to say that the evening goes less than swimmingly. It does, however, go on, and on, and on. He meets his old stoner buddies, and the kids who used to make fun of him, and the girl he always ignored, and he does the limbo, and still it goes on… Until it finally ends.

The art in this book eschews conventional comic book elements like panels, along with common flourishes such as shading and proportion and any degree of visual texture. This might be one reason why the story is so exhausting to get through: the art is just too flat. There's little to engage the eye or differentiate one page from another, which leads to the unnerving sense that you've already read this scene…

The story unspools in a series of unsophisticated black and white images, usually six to a page, with hand-drawn word balloons and cramped lettering. In fairness, the art can be expressive at times, and certainly Girard's default-setting bewildered stare conveys a world of feeling. But the simplistic drawing style has its drawbacks too, chief among them the fact that the the characters have a tendency to look alike. This is especially true in the crowded scenes at the reunion, and it's a problem. (Then again, maybe that's the point.)

Maybe it's a generational thing. When my own tenth high school reunion happened (in 1991—shh, don’t tell), I don't remember even being aware of it. So Girard's concern with how he will appear to the snobs and dopes of his own high school class is something that I have difficulty sympathizing with. Motivation is murky here—wouldn’t he have stayed in touch with people he genuinely liked? If not, and certainly many of us have not, then why would he be suddenly so concerned about how he is perceived by them?

His classmates at the reunion are by and large a superficial and not very interesting bunch, but then again, so is Girard. We know little about him, except that he is terminally insecure and a bit needy.

It could be that I'm reading too much into all this—maybe it’s just meant to be a shaggy-dog story, good for a chuckle and not much more. But man, the author/artist has put so much time and energy into this, I can't believe we aren't meant to take it seriously. The book's 156 pages are densely packed with wavery panel-less line drawings that demand attention, even though that attention is rarely rewarded.

Look, this isn’t a terrible book. It tries to tell a different kind of story; the movement is clear and the energy rarely flags. It's just that all that movement and energy never go anywhere particularly interesting. Events recur over and over—people reacting with horror to Girard's wart, for example—and the jokes get old long before the final pages are turned.

On the plus side, author/artist Girard possesses an instantly recognizable style, and one that may be better suited for other projects down the road. Let's just hope that those projects have a bit more narrative oomph to them.

3

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less

Composer Michael Vincent Waller just keeps on writing, even when trying to settle on instrument arrangements.

When New York composer Michael Vincent Waller began recording his works, he turned to his solo piano works. He hit us the following year with a double album full of a variety of chamber music arrangements. With Trajectories, Waller walks it back to solo piano and piano/cello duets. The ensemble format may have shrunk from The South Shore, but the scope of Michael Vincent Waller's work certainly hasn't. Trajectories is nearly 77 minutes in length and uses each bar of music for full minimal effect.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Roswell Rudd, ailing from cancer at 82, releases a loving quartet record of standards with collaborators as distinctive as he is.

The first song on Embrace is "Something to Live For", the exquisite Billy Strayhorn composition that was purportedly Ella Fitzgerald's favorite. What better melody and lyrics to kick off a tender, expressive, intimate date of eight standards, led by the wondrous trombonist Roswell Rudd. Singer Fay Victor brings a sympathetic wisdom to every song, and pianist Lafayette Harris and bassist Ken Filiano are an ideal rhythm section. No drums. Less is more. But there is much here.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image