Melody - Sylvie Rancourt
A series of vignettes in the life of a young woman with few skills who becomes a stripper in 1980s Montreal, Sylvie Rancourt’s graphic memoir, published for the first time in English, actually tackles a much larger topic: how we get by from day to day. The memoir originally appeared in zine form in the ’80s to great notoriety (and censorship, as an account in its appendix describes), and it wears its crudely-drawn, authentic aesthetic on its sleeve; the book, indeed, is nothing if not honest as it chronicles Melody’s struggles to pay rent, cope with an erstwhile drug-dealer boyfriend, and fend off horny customers. While much has been made of its raunchier side, the larger story, that of a North American worker’s life, remains pure, as does its depiction of greed, jealousy, passion, dependency, and ambition.
Killing and Dying - Adrian Tomine
None of the stories in Tomine’s collection are quite what they seem to be. The tale of a mildly rebellious girl’s misadventures in a standup-comedy class becomes a narrative of grappling with a parent’s death, and how art can’t quite assuage the pains of life. What seems like the saga of an aging loser’s attempt to snag a young girlfriend becomes something much darker as the would-be Lothario’s past catches up with him. Throughout, Tomine’s affection for telling detail comes through, as does his talent for portraying alternately meek and posturing faces. The question looming is: What are we doing with our lives? Tomine offers no easy answers, but his virtuosic touch enriches the exploration.