Sunday, December 20, 2009

St. Louis calling Julie Doucet in Montreal

I dip in and dip out of most things, not much of a completist or expert, but I do buy everything by Julie Doucet I can lay my hands on.

The other day at Star Clipper I laid my hands on a book by her I had never seen, 365 Days (Drawn & Quarterly). Mine now!

It's a year in the life of a struggling, mid-career artist, successful by most objective measures, but frayed - sometimes, flayed - by the uncertainty of the market and technical aggravations of the work.

Julie and I are nearly precisely the same age, and dispersed similarly across a lot of projects, so I can certainly relate to her personal diary of November 2002-2003.

She was living and working at the time in Montreal, though she had an eye on Paris and lands a steady smattering of international gigs, related to her art and books.

St. Louis makes a surprising cameo. In her entry on March 22, 2003 - a period stained by the earliest stage of the current Iraq War - she is told by phone about the local (to her) band Godspeed You Black Emperor getting interrogated by the FBI as suspected terrorists while on tour at a gas station in St. Louis.

That was enough to tee me up for this blogpost. As a matter of fact, various accounts place the band in Ardmore, Arkansas for their stop/frisk by the feds. But they were on their way to a gig that night in St. Louis, and they told the dramatic tale onstage here, which explains the confusion.

The mention of St. Louis in Julie's diary made me realize that my arts project Poetry Scores could pop up in her narrative. It would have appeared, if at all, as one of her endless, marginally irritating art opportunities.

All she had to do, in our case, was give approval for the use of a few images she had drawn years before and we already had in our possession, on the pages of a comic book.

We were scoring a Turkish poem titled, in translation, Blind Cat Black. The imagery in the poem of a black cat in a blind alley, within her sack a child just dead, made me think of Julie's drawings from Dirty Plotte.

The zombie cat is saying something else - the more evocative "I am the only man!" if memory serves - in Julie's panel.

This image, which we used on the back cover of the CD, I find even more amazing.

True to form - for Julie, but also for us - logistics posed problems. I seem to recall payment was not prompt, and Julie resorted to fretting with me before the financial ducks could be made to get in a row, finally, from St. Louis to Quebec.

When I searched my email inbox and found our exchanges, however, they were dated a couple of years later than when these 365 days end. Julie will have to write and publish another diary before our project will have the chance to crop up in her prose as yet another flattering but wearying gig.

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