My Most Secret Desire, by JULIE DOUCET, reviewed in the QUILL & QUIRE

“Quill & Quire Review - My Most Secret Desire” / Quill & Quire / Adair Brouwer / March 14, 2006

The top three things to know about comix artist Julie Doucet are: the 39-year-old francophone made her reputation with the autobiographical underground series Dirty Plotte, which painstakingly inked out her chosen territory of obsessiveness, body issues, drugs, bloody hallucinations, gender chaos, and the phantasmagorical strangeness of the downtown scene; “dirty plotte” translates as, variously, female genitalia, a slutty girl, a sexy girl, or a timid male; and there’s a lot more to her work than the gore. Doucet’s comix are rife with stabbings and sliced off penises. The latter are what everyone remembers, but, taken in context, they don’t seem gratuitous, or evidence of a blunt imagination. In Doucet’s hands (!) sex and horror become archetypal, like the transformed bodies found in Greek myths or dreams.

Dreams are the real subject of My Most Secret Desire – this new book is a reworked and updated version of her 1995 collection of stories chronicling the innermost reveries of a jittery young comix artist. The location is usually Montreal – featuring her trademark mix-ups of French and English – and sometimes New York. Most of the pieces, prefaced with the date of the dream, start with Doucet in the street, in bed, or trying to function in her cramped apartment, with or without boyfriend and cat.

Doucet’s panels are dark and dense, with a scribbly yet meticulous attention to the rubble of everyday life. Her bottles, faucets, drinking glasses, lamps, mailboxes, spoons, half-read books, socks, wall sockets, bras, and teddy bears with knives in them teem and sluice through every panel – and that’s just her apartment. Out in the street, eggs walk on tiny legs and dogs hang out, smoking. Everyone in Doucet’s stories is either on edge or half-awake.

Like Madonna, Doucet wants to tell us what it feels like to be a girl. The number one rule in Doucet’s universe is that women are physically vulnerable. Not only to weirdos on the street, but to mother nature’s messy commands. The number two rule is that women have a crazy kind of power that is the flip side of mere biology.

And you’ve got to love Doucet’s daydreams about being a man – about swaggering down the street with a bulge and whipping it out any old where. Doucet’s genius lies in taking things that one step further: anyone can sketch a girl with a new penis strutting around a bar, but how many artists would bring together a bar, a girl trying out a penis, and former Monkee Micky Dolenz? (Micky: “Two men together, it’s possible, you know. You’ll see how well I make love to you.” Julie: “Oh yes Micky.”) My Most Secret Desire has no secrets, but the desires are all there, and then some.

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