Books : Paul Is Indeed Mr. Everybody

Some time back I sang the praises of libraries here. To me, not only do they allow one to cut back on your expenses a little (obviously, by borrowing rather than buying books and other media) but they also widen my interests considerably, by making me “take chances” on books or records I wouldn’t ordinarily touch. I’ve always been “working class”, so it can be a big deal to put out $15, 20 or more on a book only to find a few dozen pages in it’s boring or unreadable. But, if it’s checked out of the library, all I’m out is an hour or so of time finding that out and a return trip to drop it back. Which leads me to the latest book I read.

Actually two out of the past four or five. Paul Goes Fishing, and its predecessor, Paul Moves Out. They’re graphic novels by Canadian Michel Rabiaglati, a Montreal-born and based graphic artist who began drawing fairly autobiographical accounts of his life about 20 years back. We see his alter-ego Paul growing up and dealing with the struggles of everyday life through the lens of the Canadian (and more specifically Quebec) ’80s and ’90s. “I’m from Montreal and I don’t travel a lot,” he told the Toronto Star, “so my stories are rooted in Quebec… the best way to have international success is to stay local.” Which he does, as well as living up to the famous writing adage “write what you know.” “It’s not pow-pow violence,” he points out, “it’s normal relations…it’s a normal guy. ‘Mr. Everybody’.”

Which is just where the charm of it lies. In Paul Moves Out, the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat event is simply a gay professor hitting on the very straight Paul. We see a snippets of his coming of age, moving away from home, finishing college, getting an apartment with his new girlfriend, babysitting relatives kids. Nothing entirely unique nor thrilling, but thoroughly interesting and story-driven enough to have you rooting for him (and his gal Lucie). In Paul Goes Fishing, he’s a bit older and having a few more adult problems…secretly envying his richer friends, Lucie having difficulty getting pregnant. All while set against the sanguine backdrop of a weekend fishing trip in the country. Again, you’re rooting for them because, as the author says, Paul is “Mr. Everybody.” The illustrations are black-and-white cartoons, realistic enough to be compelling while lacking excessive detail that would be distracting.paul art

The books really speak to me, since Rabiaglati is only a bit older than I am and is depicting growing up in my old homeland, albeit a different section. It’s relatable. Call me crazy but I secretly cheer a little inside to see a little depiction of quintessentially-Canuck things from my youth like Molsons beer or Canadian Tire stores; or that reflect my own life – a picture of a Stranglers album cover at a party he went to, for instance. It puts me in mind of another Canadian author a little – Douglas Coupland. The Generation X guy likewise has fashioned a career, which at its best is merely creating interesting stories about very ordinary and relatable people. Perhaps the somewhat low-key national identity we’re known for helps us excel at noticing interesting little things and eschewing the big, blockbuster blow-’em-ups Hollywood (and much of the rest of the world) seem to fall in love with.

I brought up libraries in the beginning because generally I am not a “comic book” guy. Didn’t read them as a kid basically, so sure not inspired to do so now. I, perhaps unfairly, tend to lump graphic novels in with them. Were it not for one of the “Paul” books being prominently displayed on a front table of my local library years ago, I would never in a thousand years stumbled upon the tales. And would have been a bit poorer for the absence of them. So, two messages to take from that perhaps.

One, to be more open to new experiences…something I admittedly am not great with. But just because I might find Superman or Aquaman ridiculous wastes of time, it’s silly to write off the whole genre of comics and things only remotely like them. And two, stories don’t need a lot of “pow” and flash to be compelling. Mr.Everybody probably leads an interesting life once you stop and consider it all. You and I have stories to tell as interesting as any Caped Crusader. Perhaps not quite as exciting but more compelling, since they’re real.

I’m looking forward to getting the next instalment he wrote. Maybe he and Lucie will have a kid. And I hope the rat doesn’t show back up in their bathroom! One encounter with it is “pow-pow” enough for anybody.

14 Replies to “Books : Paul Is Indeed Mr. Everybody”

  1. I never got into comic books either. My friends were reading Spiderman and Superman but I never got into them. I did read satire…Cracked and Mad though.
    I’ve never read a graphic novel like this. It does sound pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, true, I did love Mad mag as a kid! And I did read the ‘When the Wind Blows’ book, which was likewise a graphic novel, back in the day… I remember you saying you and Bailey watched the movie of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes he did and really liked it. Those magazines were different than comics in a way…it wasn’t a continuing story…kind of like SNL…some short gags.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have a digital copy (pdf) of every Mad magazine up until aorund 2005 or so. Mad sold it when computers were just popular….it still does make me laugh

        Liked by 1 person

      3. that would be rather cool, even if not QUITE the same as the hands-on experience of the magazine. Thinking back, mostly I remember Don Martin’s cartoons, Spy vs Spy and the Snappy Comebacks to Stupid Questions (or something to that effect)… they might not have been my absolute favorite features but they seem the ones that stand out most to me trying to remember it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Remember Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side of…”? He started that and even in the 1980s everyone looked like they were in the 1970s. He either refused to change his style or he had a lot stockpiled.
        Don Martin was great…he went to Cracked after Mad.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Graphic novels are a whole other game from comic books, as you have seen. My sons and DIL are much more familiar with them than I am. Trips to the library (or bookstore) can always give such gifts. I borrow way more DVDs than books from the library because I read books at my own pace that doesn’t always mesh with due dates lol. I have started borrowing them as “trials” for books to see if it is one I’d like to buy. Also, I never would have thought to do it before, but I try to find books in e-book format because they can be renewed over and over. Paul does sound like my kind of story. It has to almost feel like a visit home for you to read them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t borrow a whole lot of DVDs from the Ontario libraries, but a few that I might not have otherwise viewed, but I did find a lot of music that way.
      It’s funny – and sad – one social scientist was saying not long back that libraries are a concept which would never, ever be allowed if they weren’t already around and established…imagine the outrage from publishers . Yet these two Paul books I bought on Amazon because I vaguely remembered the one I read from a library years ago. They actually spur on sales, at least in my case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 100% in agreement with you about libraries spurring sales, and it starts with the kids by cultivating a love of reading in them. Kids who love to read buy books as adults. I cannot allow myself to consider the thought of libraries not existing 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dave, have you read, “The Library Book”? It’s about the history of libraries in the US and so much more. I highly recommend it. So well-researched and written with genuine appreciation of libraries for the key functions they serve in societies.

        Liked by 1 person

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