August 2006

Carrie Jones

fiction

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet

Julie Doucet is always telling us about herself in her work. Her comic Dirty Plotte and her collections, such as My New York Diary, manage to weave the autobiographical with the fantastic in a way that compliments both styles. My Most Secret Desire, beautifully put together by Drawn & Quarterly, marks a return to comics for Doucet after a five-year hiatus. In this book Doucet gives us selections from her past dream comics and some newly drawn material. Fans of her work will be familiar with the crowded panels full of sinister objects and the graphically rendered biological processes, and readers new to the Doucet way will find a good survey of her style.

The third comic in the book, “Oh La La What a Strange Dream,” is a great example of what makes dreams great comics. It begins with a space-suited Julie preparing for a trip on a rocket ship. Right before she blasts off, her mother appears. She climbs up the scaffolding in her heels and fur coat and gives Julie a farewell present of cookies…“for masturbation purposes, my child!” Upon entering space, Julie pulls off her suit and tries the cookies. The last panel is Julie awake in her rumpled bed, shrugging sheepishly for her dream, but grinning widely for its results. This is one of the few happy dreams in this collection, and we get an intriguing glimpse of Doucet’s view of her mother.

Much of Doucet’s work incorporates her feelings about gender, and her take on femaleness is refreshingly frank. In her dream comics, this comes out in stories about birth, sex, and fear. When Doucet dreams about pregnancy, the weird sensations of carrying a living thing are present, and the births bring surprises that are at once strange and heartfelt. Her nightmares are about relationships gone twisted and dangerous, imperiling her body and mind. She dreams about becoming a man, and while her male persona is sexy, her penis exciting and hilarious, the change carries the fear of becoming a raging jerk. The gentle side of sex transformation is shown in a sweet one-pager about a shaving routine that places a reflective Julie in a towel and a smile.

The recurring dreams of My Most Secret Desire could be seen as overwhelming this relatively short collection, but the comics about moving, shopping, and going on adventures do a lot to augment it, and provide a break from the exceedingly tense atmosphere of Doucet’s subconscious. The stories are best taken in twos and threes, giving the reader enough time to luxuriate in the dense, inky panels and take in all the great detail of a creative life that Doucet gives. Plus, the cover is pretty enough that no one would mind leaving the book around in conspicuous places until they are through.

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly
ISBN: 1896597955
120 pages