Out next month from Drawn & Quarterly is Petty Theft by Pascal Girard. I haven’t read his previous works they’ve translated and released here, although Reunion sounded interesting, if uncomfortable. That’s the comedy category this book falls into, that of recognition of human frailty. Here are some preview pages.
In Petty Theft, Pascal’s on his own after a long-term relationship ended. He’s running as part of his new life healthy resolutions, but when he trips over a rock and injures himself, he’s told to stop exercising for a while. Without the endorphins, he’s afraid he’ll descend into depression, so he begins hanging out at the local bookstore, where he spots a young woman stealing one of his books.
It’s obvious from the art that Girard (a French-Canadian) has more than the usual American art influences. The art is thin-line, with six borderless panels per page, and the content is slice-of-life and urban, a comic equivalent of Woody Allen movies. Perhaps it’s a bit too self-indulgent, assuming that we’re all interested in the details of Girard’s life, but the incidents are funny if cringe-inducing. I wanted to push Pascal to make choices, or better ones. His attempts at detection, at finding out who this woman is, often boil down to chance encounters.
Certain pages work as gag strips in themselves, especially the work ones. Pascal is feeling blocked from drawing, so he goes back to work as a construction welder, which doesn’t go well. Particularly odd yet eye-catching is one of his possessions that the ex-girlfriend sends over: a giant paper-mache head of himself. Sitting in the corner of his room (he’s staying with friends, a young family who provide a contrast to his single, unfocused life), it’s a mute reminder of his self-judgment.
Although small, the panels have great emotion. They read quickly, in case you’re just interested in what uncomfortable situation Pascal will get into next (much like Seinfeld), but their detail rewards inspection. His uncertainty about what to do — in his life, with his career, about the book thief — will resonate with many. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, as I felt there was a lack of resolution, but perhaps that’s my expectations of fiction, where I want stronger endings than we get in life.