CBC Interviews Julie Doucet on the Making of Carpet Sweeper Tales

“Julie Doucet: How I wrote Carpet Sweeper Tales” / CBC / April 8, 2016

Though she left the comics medium in 1990, Julie Doucet is revered as one of the most influential cartoonists to come from Canada. The Montreal artist has been described as "punk Sylvia Plath" for her early feminist work and it's with bated breath that fans awaited her latest book, Carpet Sweeper Tales. Meant to be read out loud, Carpet Sweeper Tales is collection of photo comics, created with pictures cut from 1960s Italian fumetti (photonovels) and words (and non-words) from 1950s gardening magazines. Below, Doucet describes the process behind the book.

ON SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT FONT

The text are cut out words from old magazines like Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens. Some of them I could find in garage sales and things like that, and some I had to buy on eBay.

In those days they used a lot of different fonts from page to page, ad to ad, which is really nice to work with. Very often it's in black and white so the text it's easy to use. The ads are really funny and the vocabulary is a lot funnier than it would be today.

Maybe it looks nonsense to people when they read it, but it's a lot of work. Visually and the sounds - especially the things that are more sound-like and non-words - I did quite a lot of searching for the right font to go with the rest of the word.

ON COMBINING COLLAGE WITH POETRY

I didn't [intend] to make a book that should be read out loud. In the past I've been working a lot with cut out words, making poetry and different projects like that. I realized that my writing is very rhythmic and that it sounded very good when you read it out loud. It was a natural thing to do when you read it.

ON IMPROVISING THE NARRATIVE

First, I flip through the fumetti and pick the pictures - the nicest and biggest ones. Afterwards, I pick the ones I can make look like a narrative. It could be six or eight pictures. From one project to another, I always keep the words and syllables left over and I start with the leftovers from the last project. The text is pretty much improvised.

The fumettis were very romantic. The first narratives I made were of ironic romantic situations and also - for some reason in these fumettis - a lot of the action is going on in cars, so there are a lot of people often sitting in cars and talking.

Julie Doucet's comments have been edited and condensed.

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