Monday, 26 January 2015

Petty Theft by Pascal Girard Review

Petty Theft sees cartoonist Pascal Girard in a bad place. He’s nearing 30 and wants to run a marathon to mark the milestone – but during a run one day he smashes his foot against a rock and throws his back out! His girlfriend of 9 years breaks up with him leaving him temporarily homeless and living in the spare room of a married friend with a new baby. He’s also giving up cartooning and thinking of once more taking up a “real job” like construction. 

Without the endorphins he gets from running, Pascal falls into a depression and goes looking for books on positive thinking. But while browsing in a bookshop he sees a young woman stealing a book – one of his! – and decides to follow her. So begins an unusual courtship as Pascal tries to figure out what he wants in this light-hearted, comedic slice of life tale. 

Maybe it’s because he’s so merciless with his character, depicting himself as this human wreck, constantly prat-falling and saying the wrong thing, misinterpreting situations and so on, but I think Pascal is a very likeable and sympathetic chap. The book is also very much in the vein of modern French comics who do fast-moving, engaging contemporary stories superbly. 

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Petty Theft – it’s a straightforward story executed beautifully. Girard doesn’t bother to include scene transitions/establishing shots, trusting the reader to fill in the necessary blanks, and this allows for a swifter, and more subtly sophisticated, narrative. 

Girard keeps the disparate elements in his story turning nicely so there’s never a dull moment, and I was interested to see what would happen with the cute klepto and him – will they, won’t they, etc. I smiled a couple times during the book – and I read this straight through in a single sitting which is rare for me - and even genuinely laughed once! 

The comedy is at times a little strained – there are only so many times watching Pascal fall over can be amusing – and I thought the imagery of his ex’s giant paper mache head in the corner of his room symbolising his heartbreak was a bit obvious (as was the inevitable throwing away of said head to symbolise overcoming his sadness). But these are small nitpicks – overall the comic is great. 

The blurb on the cover calls this a “heavily fictionalised memoir” so I expect Girard moulded the facts into a neat, cohesive narrative for the sake of the reader, and that’s fine; whether knowing every part of it was true or not doesn’t really add or detract from my enjoyment of the story. Also, I wouldn’t say it’s a “romantic comedy”; comedy sure but romance? … Not really. Plus the label has negative connotations (at least, for most guys) – I know if I’d seen it advertised as such beforehand I would have hesitated picking it up! 

After this and his last book Reunion, not to mention his moving debut Nicolas, Pascal Girard is quickly turning into one of his generation’s most notable comics creators even if his work isn’t “important” from a literary or stylistic viewpoint. Petty Theft is a charming and entertaining book that will appeal to all fans of quality indie comics and anyone looking for a light, fun read.

Petty Theft

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