Today I report on Paul at Home by Michel Rabagliati. I've written about one of Rabagliati's books before.
I have loved the previous Paul books I have read (Moves Out, Fishing, Summer Job, In the Country), but this? Not so much. I'm good with sad. I'm looking forward to Roland. It's not that. This level of self-pitying crap at the typical difficulties of being 51 was overwhelming. He never comes off really well in his books, which is brave and interesting. But the travails of late middle age here are not particularly interesting to me. For some reason (though the content is quite different), this reminds me of the reaction I had to Joe Matt.I love and highly recommend his other stuff, but this feels the weakest of all. I don't feel that Paul at Home ever breaks out of him feeling sorry for himself and tells me something new about HIS experience. I've heard that story a million times before; we all have. Media is dominated by sad, middle-aged men. Why should I care about him feeling sad about the same things in the same way? Tell me about what is interesting and unique about what you discovered or experienced? Other random thoughts:+ One of the things I love about his other stuff is the moments where you see how life slightly different in Quebec or the minutiae of some of the things that fascinate him. The font stuff was the most interesting in this one. + I'm pretty sure I read his stuff out of chronological order and I think I got a lot out of it that way. His storytelling is strong enough that he gives you the context you need at the moment and there's great moments of discovery when you find the backstory on an aspect later. Given the diverse availability of his stuff, I encourage folks to get their hands on what they can at the moment and not wait to get the "full story." + The Song of Roland is running for over $60! Ouch.+ You mention how Summer Job has that clunky narrative device of finding the charm, but damn, that cherry tree? Ham fisted right there, man.
I mention the bit about the cherry tree because this particular kind of ending seems to be a weakness on Rabagliati's part. The need perhaps to have things have a little bow on top. Part of what intrigued me about it was that almost all the other books were extremely optimistic. I didn't expect him to divorce Lucie based on what had come in the other books. The Song of Roland is more emotional (and even more manipulative with its ending), but I found Paul at Home more true.
I saw the other stuff as more finding joy in moments, not necessarily optimistic in total. Paul is clearly a shit in many ways. That New York story with his teacher in "Moves Out" is SO problematic on both their parts. And he is not hiding that at all. A cherry tree doesn't make him any less an old bitter asshole in "At Home." But at least be an interesting asshole.