Pretending Is Lying is a Mystifying, Satisfying Hidden Gem

Comics Reviews Dominique Goblet
Pretending Is Lying is a Mystifying, Satisfying Hidden Gem

Writer/Artist: Dominique Goblet
Translator: Sophie Yanow
Publisher: New York Review Comics
Release Date: February 7, 2017


Dominique Goblet started work on this loose memoir back in 1995, and it wasn’t published in her native Belgium until 2007. In the meantime, she reworked old pages, many of which had aged and yellowed. But rather than clean them up or redraw the images, she treated them like a palimpsest or a patina. Ten years after, New York Review Comics has released an English translation alongside translator Sophie Yanow with new lettering from Goblet. The book fits right in with the weird array of sequential art the relatively new imprint has released so far: a reissue of Mark Beyer’s Agony, a gorgeous English edition of Blutch’s Peplum (one of the most underappreciated books of last year), a compilation of Glen Baxter’s weird single-panel surrealistic gags, a giant volume of Norwegian cartoonist Hariton Pushwagner’s Soft City (dating from the late 1960s to early 1970s and interesting, but perhaps a little overappreciated). The publisher clearly likes mining hidden gems, polishing them and showing them off proudly to a public that is (probably) mystified by their contents. Pretending Is Lying falls right inside those lines.

In many ways, the book is a mess. The narrative is scattered and patchy, and the characters are often frustrating. On the other hand, it holds an immediate power. Goblet conveys her messy childhood, her difficult relationships with her parents and her lasting problems from her upbringing. The mess is the point, even if it can feel smothering. If pretending is lying (something one character says to another in the heat of anger), these pages avoid deception by being as raw and direct as Goblet can render them. Characters also lie to one another (or to themselves) throughout. It’s complicated. Life is complicated. There’s no clear, overarching storyline because forcing experience into a narrative is a kind of lying.

Pretending is Lying Interior Art by Dominique Goblet

Goblet’s pencil work could easily be overshadowed by her narrative, or by the showier early pages that incorporate/resemble collage. They’re loud in form and in their events. There’s a lot of yelling, rendered in big, spiky, hysterical letters. Cursive stands in for kinder, more composed speech. These are the pages that receive most of the attention, but her quieter story, about a relationship haunted by the ghost of another one that’s not quite over, is a finely rendered beauty. Pencil marks so feathery they look like watercolor gently lay out foggy industrial scenes. Strategic erasures stand in for absence around the edges. A single panel in the middle of a nightclub contrasts dark marks that stand for masses of bodies pressed together with a cross of spotlights. The breadth of tones rendered is impressive and feels personal in a way ink rarely can. The book as a whole doesn’t quite merge into something greater than its pieces, but it has moments of greatness.

Pretending is Lying Interior Art by Dominique Goblet

Pretending is Lying Interior Art by Dominique Goblet

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