-->
Books

'Pretending Is Lying' Explores the Complexity of Human Relationships

The nostalgic self-reflection in Dominique Goblet's work is painfully honest and verges on the bittersweet.


Pretending Is Lying

Publisher: New York Review Comics
Author: Dominique Goblet
Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover
Length: 144 pages
Translated: Sophie Yanow
Publication date: 2017-02
Amazon

Where is the line between pretending and lying?

When does the multifaceted gaze of subjectivity turn the haze of memory into a shimmer of deceit? When does self-doubt morph into self-deception, and when two people are involved, how do differing subjectivities align their understanding of events which may both be as true as they are starkly divergent?

Lofty themes punctuate Dominique Goblet’s work, but she often treats them with the simplest of sketch illustrations. The award-winning Belgian comics artist has treated autobiographical material before, and her work is most striking for its ability to pair a profound complexity of subject matter with compellingly simple artwork. There’s a temptation to call the simple pencil line drawings ‘childlike’, but they control and compel the reader with a subtlety that reminds us surface simplicity is not an end in itself but an invitation to plumb the greater and more elusive depths which it masks.

Pretending Is Lying spills a variety of such autobiographic profundities from the lives of its protagonists onto the pages of its narrative. The failed father figure, whose alcoholism and lofty self-image inure him to the sufferings of those around him, yet whose frail humanity, in the end, leaves him hard to blame. The abusive mother figure, loved by the author despite it all. The two-timing, weak-willed boyfriend who in fact collaborated with Goblet on the chapters outlining their painful relationship. The daughter Nikita who remains a spark of light through it all, and whom Goblet thanks movingly in her acknowledgements.

Pretending Is Lying, originally published in French in 2007, weaves together narratives from Goblet’s childhood and adulthood; narratives which Goblet spent 12 years struggling to frame together and wring from memory to paper. The story is framed around Goblet’s efforts, as a grown-up adult with a four-year-old daughter, to come to terms with her relationship with her father, a blustery and alcoholic firefighter.

This is interwoven with the story of a romantic relationship between Goblet and her lover, Guy Marc Hinant (who co-authored these segments); what emerges is a portrayal of the indifferent cruelties of weak-willed men and the self-deceptions they weave about themselves and which inevitably affect the lives of those around them. The narratives possess a self-revealing coherence, but they jump back and forth through time in a manner that underscores the recurring personal failures of the men in her life. There are no neat answers here; no pat conclusion to tie the book together with a satisfactory sigh; but then art echoes life echoes art, does it not?

Goblet’s skill lies in helping to convey this sense of complexity in human relationships. The artistic style of the work varies, which is apt, given the leaps in time between chapters. Her simpler sketch work may be difficult for some readers at first, but it quickly grows on the reader who allows themselves to be absorbed by the deeply human story it tells. In other segments, simplistic line drawings merge into lush, painted streetscapes almost imperceptibly. The artwork deserves aesthetic appreciation but serves more to accentuate the powerful human story told by this painfully beautiful book.

The over-arching quality of this work is one of poignancy. The nostalgic self-reflection is painfully honest but verges on the bittersweet without falling into its enervating trap. No one is really bad; no one is ultimately redeemed; the reader is enveloped in a poignant air which is rescued from becoming truly depressing through its simple narrative honesty. To the reader, the men in Goblet’s life appear as misogynistic failures; but it’s harder to see someone that way when you’ve loved them; harder yet when a part of you still does.

Goblet communicates this painfully and effectively. Her ability to do so -- even if it took her 12 years to get this story right -- underscores her talent as a comics artist, which has been widely recognized in Europe yet remains less known to North American audiences. Goblet won the Topffer Prize for the French publication of Pretending Is Lying and has also been awarded the EESI Prize at the Angouleme Comics Festival. Her work received acclaim of a different sort when an exhibition she’d been invited to do with German artist Kai Pfeiffer was censored and shut down in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2015. For Pretending Is Lying’s English language edition she collaborated with talented North American comics artist Sophie Yanow, who translated the work.

Pretending Is Lying is a perceptive and poignant contribution to the fields of both experimental comics and graphic autobiography, and well worth the read.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

Keep reading... Show less
9
Music

The Dear Hunter: All Is As All Should Be EP

Jordan Blum
Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Although All Is As All Should Be is a tad too brief to match its precursors, it's still a masterful blend of songwriting, arrangements, and singing that satisfies the Dear Hunter anticipation.

The Dear Hunter is undoubtedly one of the best—and consequently, most egregiously underappreciated—bands of the last decade or so. Aside from 2013's Migrant LP, every one of their major releases featured an ambitious hook; for example, 2011's The Color Spectrum presented nine EPs (consisting of four songs each) that individually represented a different sonic tone (in order: Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and White), whereas the five-part (so far) Act saga, with its genre-shifting arrangements, superlative songwriting, narrative complexity, and extraordinary conceptual continuity, is a cumulative work of genius, plain and simple.

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