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Book Review < Back

Soirs de Paris

Credits: Written by Philippe Petit-Roulet and Illustrated by Francois Avril
Publisher: Les Humanoides Associes


It seems as though every time I go back to New York, I find myself at some point in a cab at night, on the FDR, headed toward Brooklyn. As we make the curve around the Lower East Side, past the Williamsburg Bridge, I make sure to look out the window to my right. There are high-rise buildings there. I think they're city projects, but I'm not sure. There are always curtains open and lights on. I like to look in strangers' windows as we pass.

I'm not hoping to see naked people -- quite the contrary, in fact -- I just want an anonymous glimpse into someone else's life. A fleeting snapshot for a visitor they didn't expect, didn't tidy up for. I suppose it's voyeurism but I don't think it's particularly salacious. I don't know what it is, exactly.

The four short stories in SOIRS DE PARIS read just like peering in windows on FDR drive. Each is named for the Parisian address where it takes place ("63 Rue de la Grange aux Belles," for instance) and though they're rife with sex and nudity, there's nothing particularly lewd about them. They're more than snapshots, they're tiny movies. It's as though my cab got stuck in traffic and I get to sit and look for a while. From a distance, but still. I have to look.

There's no text in the book, which allows English readers access to French comics without shame or an unreasonable reliance upon Babelfish. That absence of words also underscores the sense of distance -- we can see, but we can't hear. Or, we can hear the music, but we can't quite make out the words. It's okay, though. We don't need to know what they're saying exactly. We don't want to go to their party; we just want to watch.

-- Kelly Sue DeConnick

Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.


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