This brand new little paperback from Conundrum Press has brightened my week. I was getting mopey thinking about how I won’t get to travel anywhere this summer, except to and from work. I’ve spent the past few years touring a lot with my band, but now I’m a real working lady, and I’m getting antsy for a road trip that won’t come.
Then Ruts & Gullies reminded me that I can travel through the magic of books! Books! Each page draws you into an imaginary world that’s way better than say, actually going to Brooklyn!
But for real, travel stories are great for satisfying an adventure-craving when you’re stuck at home. Ruts and Gullies chronicles French-Canadian cartoonist Philippe Girard and his cartoonist pal, Jimmy Beaulieu as they travel from Quebec City to St. Petersburg, Russia for a comics arts festival.
While significant trips are often imbued with a sense of escape or freedom or emotional catharsis, Girard’s is especially so. He heads to Russia on the heels of losing a close friend to cancer and when he returns to Canada he’ll undergo a semi-serious surgery, so his travel is bookended by significant and scary events.
However, Ruts & Gullies doesn’t head into super self-reflective territory. The events in Girard’s life just give the reader insight as to why he would go to country everyone tells him is crime-ridden and impoverished and all around, generally scary. He’s been given a sense a bravery or maybe carefree-ness that comes with being so close to death.
But, like I said, Ruts & Gullies isn't weighty— it's a fascinating and joyful read. It’s along the same lines as the amazing Guy Delisle’s Shenzhen and Pyongyang—interesting and funny tidbits about a people and country that are relatively unknown to most Canadians, without getting too “aren’t other cultures hilarious?”
Comics are a perfect medium for Girard’s story since, like most travel stories, it’s less of a straightforward narrative and more scenes of interesting moments in Russia: seeing the remnants of communist culture, trying weird new food, lost passports, public transit mishaps, cool new friends, etc.
No kidding, I really did feel that Girard took me with him on thrilling trip to an awesomely strange destination, and I didn’t even have to leave Scrapperton at home.