365 DAYS: A DIARY by Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly), 360 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Voyeurs, this one’s for you. Julie Doucet’s visual diary 365 Days is an intimate look into the minutiae of everything she went through over a full year.
Every day’s rehashing is true and raw – no filter, no embellishment. Only the skilled pen of Doucet, a masterful graphic novelist living in Montreal, could make this into more than scribbled notes about watching movies and catching colds.
Her artwork immediately catches your eye: text wraps around the drawings, and dialogue bubbles are avoided even for conversation. It may look like a mess at first, but the chaos of text colliding with images of Doucet and her friends says something about how we interact with people. Our relationships aren’t always neat and may not follow a certain order.
As in most diaries, no central conflict drives the narrator. Doucet lives a largely uneventful life: she works as a freelance artist, her friends take her out to concerts and gallery openings, and she visits France to get away from the ho-hum drudgery.
There are no passionate sexual encounters, and very rarely do the characters argue with each other. In fact, the appeal of the book lies in this very routine. We can relate to almost every panel because our own life is mirrored in hers.
Luckily for the reader, Doucet’s theories are on full display. She shares her views on the Iraq War, on interacting with “comics people” and on the quiet pleasure of reading a good book in the bath. She doesn’t flesh out her friends too deeply, which may say more about Doucet’s relationships than she intended.
365 Days comes across as an experiment in life documentation. Graphic novel readers will appreciate Doucet’s inventive approach, and long-time diary writers should be inspired by the addition of illustration to penned emotions.