Monday, March 17, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #75: Bubbles & Gondola by Renaud Dillies

I may have been the only one to make this mistake, but I'll point it out, just in case. This is not the story of two characters, one named Bubbles and the other Gondola. I don't know why I thought that, but it's how this book was slotted in my brain from the moment I saw it in 2011 until I actually read it. So, if you have an unreasoning dislike for characters named Bubbles, you don't need to avoid this book. (If you have an unreasoning dislike for anthropomorphic mice, though, I can sadly inform you that the figure on the cover is indeed our hero.)

Bubbles & Gondola is actually an allusive title, about creativity and spontaneity: two things the main character of this graphic novel -- one Charlie the Mouse, a novelist going through a very rough patch in his work -- is having great trouble with when we meet him. He's deeply alone, and mostly happily so -- he doesn't like other people much, or enjoy being around them -- but he's got the terror of the blank page, and nothing at all is flowing.

But a little blue bird who calls himself Charlie's Solitude arrives, and begins the process of pulling Charlie out of himself, at least a little bit, and getting him to re-engage with the world and start refilling his vats of inspiration. (Dillies never says the latter, or has any character say it, but he doesn't need to: it's clear that Charlie's problem is that his own head, anyone's own head, can never be enough inspiration for art.) Bubbles & Gondola is not a story of plot; it's a series of events in which Charlie is forced back into the world and rediscovers how much joy and excitement are out there.

Dillies draws Charlie's solitude and tentative explorations in an expressive, crosshatched style with clear antecedents in early 20th century newspaper comics and animated cartoons and a deft hand at transitions from dream to visions to reality and back again. This is a fine book for any artist or would-be artist -- or just any of us who have a tendency to spend too much time in our own heads, without anyone else for company.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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