Monday, November 22, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday: REVIEW: Ruts and Gullies, by Philippe Girard

Ruts and Gullies: Nine Days in Saint Petersburg, by Philippe Girard. Published 2010 by Conundrum Press. Graphica. Memoir.

Well, how long has it been since I did a graphic novel review? Ages.

This one is the story of a Canadian comics artist named Philippe Girard and the nine days he spent with his friend Jimmy Beaulieu in Saint Petersburg, Russia, touring around and meeting with other comics artists from all over the world. It's cute.

There were a couple of things that bothered me about this book. The art is kind of bland. With a travelogue, one hopes for art that makes the place portrayed come alive; I want to see architecture, pretty scenes, something to bring me into the place. I didn't really get that here. Also, there is no translation offered for the occasional Romanized and Cyrillic Russian speech and signage; I can read Russian well enough to puzzle out street signs and simple things but I would have liked the dialogue to be at least translated into English. There isn't a lot of Russian in the book, but I just wish that what there was, had been translated, even as a footnote.

Read as part of Russo-Biblio-Exravaganza
That said, there's still a lot to like about Ruts and Gullies. Girard writes a pretty fun, light, engaging story about his time in Russia, very fish-out-of-water, and there are some real laughs to be had. He portrays his hosts with warmth and affection. I got a sense of the culture in terms of the people if not in terms of the sights and sounds, which is probably more important anyway. I love the "twenty Russian minutes" expression he comes up with to describe how long it takes to do anything, go anywhere, etc., in this strange and unfamiliar country. He really captures what it feels like to feel at sea in a new world.

So yeah, cute and light but not the best or deepest book I've ever read. But it's a good read and I think it would appeal to newer graphic novel readers and anyone interested in Russia.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


bermudaonion said...

Well, I don't know Russian at all, so I think I'll skip this book.

Zibilee said...

Sounds interesting, but I also know no Russian, so I wonder if I would be lost. I think it would be worth it for me to try to check this book out at the bookstore to see if it was something I would actually be comfortable reading. Thanks for the great review on this one.

Marie said...

Heather and Kathy, I edited my review slightly because I think I gave the wrong impression. There isn't a lot of Russian in the book- but there was just enough that it bothered me that it wasn't translated. I probably missed no more than four panels of dialogue- again, not a lot, but it should have been rendered accessible in my opinion. It's not a reason to skip the book but it's something you'll notice if you do decide to read it.

jewwishes said...

Thank you for the honest review.

Kathleen said...

I'm interested in Russia but would probably prefer some of the other books you've recommended recently. I still haven't read Maus or Persepolis or finished Fun Home so I feel like this graphic novel would be prioritized a little lower on my list for now.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Like me? My quasi-restriction of the books I read has hampered my reading of Graphic novels. Besides, I haven't even come across one. And I don't know if I would know when I do. How different are they from comic books. I read Gormenghast and there were some illustrations of the characters in the book. I don't think that's a graphic novel or even Rats and Gargoyles.

Marie said...

Nana, like you :-) I think you might like this. The difference is that comic books tend to be superhero-related, and tend to be written in long series. Graphic novels are self-contained narratives- like a regular novel, but told in a combination of pictures and prose.

contemplatrix said...

not sure I could get past the drawing, and while I tend to avoid travel narratives, the graphic/comic versions tend to be fun to flip through... I see that there are more and more Graphic Novel travel narratives. Joe Sacco's are fairly intense, but I enjoyed flipping through Craig Thompson's illustrated memoir/notes of his time in Europe researching another story project, "Carnet de Voyage".