Monday, September 15, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #258: Bigfoot by Pascal Girard

It's easier to become famous now than it ever has been in history -- easier for a life to be completely transformed by a sudden audience, for good or bad. There have been plenty of stories about the fantasy side of that story -- the ingenue discovered at the soda fountain, the kid who goes out there in the chorus and comes back a star, the singer who gets on that big TV show -- but not much from the more realistic side. And fame is fractal now: someone can be intensely famous, suddenly, in a small area.

Teenager Jimmy is that kind of famous. A video of him dancing -- as the aphorism says, like nobody was watching -- was uploaded to YouTube by his best friend Simon. It was a small joke, but now everyone in their small Canadian town has seen the video -- and everyone knows "Disco Jimmy," and isn't shy about calling out to him whenever he's out in public.

That would be bad enough, but Jimmy's Uncle Pierre films his own video soon afterward: he thinks he's seen Bigfoot. Jimmy tries to convince him not to post it, but the lure of fame is too strong. And soon Pierre is being mocked as well, even more so because he's related to Disco Jimmy.

But that's all really background in Pascal Girard's naturalistic and affecting graphic novel Bigfoot; this is really the story of a couple of love triangles that intersect with Jimmy. In big fake entertainment, the hero has always been in love with someone, pining from afar, and gets together with her after the big corny showboat maneuver in the third act. Bigfoot is more like real life: Jimmy likes, or loves, or has a crush on Jolene, a girl he's known all his life. But he can't tell her, maybe because he's not sure what to say, or what he really feels -- but he wants to be near her. So he signs up for a drawing class at the local cultural center, because he's overheard that Jolene is in the class.

But teenagers are restless and unsure, so Jimmy also gets roped into a double date with Simon, with two girls from the local religious school. And so he spends time with Jessica, walks her home, kisses her on her doorstep. In a Hollywood movie, this would be a huge betrayal; in life, it's just what happens when you're not sure what to do. And it all comes together, or apart, when Simon and Jimmy and Jolene all spend a weekend in Pierre's remote cabin -- Simon wants a shot at his own Bigfoot video, Jolene is along to see what happens, and Jimmy is hoping to spark something with Jolene.

None of it works out that way, especially for Jimmy. Girard never breaks the flow of his story with narration, but Jimmy's negativity and grumpiness -- even if we readers know exactly why, and what he's feeling -- drive events exactly the way he doesn't want. It's honest, and sad, and utterly true -- I was reminded a lot of the great movie Gregory's Girl; Girard has a similar sense of the aimless lack of focus of young men and the places that can lead.

Bigfoot is told in a tight three-by-four grid, packing twelve panels to the page and allowing for a lot more story and nuance than you'd expect from a 48-page album. (It's an interesting contract to the two other Girard books that have been translated into English: the earlier Nicolas has mostly borderless images on its small pages, and the slightly later Reunion has a looser grid, again without panel borders.) Bigfoot is an exquisite, perfectly poised story of young love and longing and jealousy, equally universal and specific.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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