PAUL GOES FISHING reviewed by the Hartford Advocate

“Let's Go Fishing” / The Hartford Advocate / Alan Bisbort / May 7, 2008

For book lovers eager for new and different adventures, or political animals burnt out on the Hillary-Obama saga, I suggest a fishing trip with Paul.

"Paul" is the main character in Michel Rabagliati's engaging series of graphic novels published by Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, and distributed here in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Rabagliati's latest installment of the Paul saga is Paul Goes Fishing, a paperback original (208 pages, $19.95).

Paul is now married to his longtime girlfriend Lucie (seen in previous installments Paul Has a Summer Job and Paul Moves Out). These are two people you wished you knew as friends, or neighbors. Decent, gentle folks who are kind to each other yet eccentric enough not to be cloying. In this episode, Lucie is expecting and, before their lives are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of the baby, they are coaxed into going to a "fish camp" with their in-laws. The fish camp is in a freakily isolated place in northern Quebec; neither Paul nor Lucie are into fishing. And yet they are captives at this camp. This isn't knee slapping or "deep" humor, but Rabagliati's artwork is charming and evocative in the way that Ludwig Bemelmans' travel chronicles and personal narrative are.

What starts off gently and quietly turns into something darker, which (in my estimation) makes this title the best yet in the award-winning "Paul" series. The things he sees and hears and experiences in this un-sheltered exile to northern Quebecprovoke the previously imperturbable Paul muttering things to himself like "Humans piss me off." There ya go, mate!

Paul confronts cruelty to animals, the bitterness of other men who've lost their jobs to outsourcing, the brutality of the redneck mentality and a harrowing account of a near drowning. It's hard to impress on readers the power of these pages without the use of the illustrations themselves. And therein lies the appeal of graphic novels.

So, why not take the plunge?

Go fishing with Paul.

You'll find him, uh, catchy.

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