Page 45 Review by Stephen
Love and relationships in all their diversity:
"If there's no construction, you're not on the right road."
What is delicious about the offering of that eye-opening truth is that it's uttered offhandedly by a woman who is simply giving directions to a friend or family member over her mobile phone.
"No, no, you must have taken a wrong turn... If there's no construction, you're not on the right road."
It's certainly borne out here, along with so many other open and honest insights into how we treat each other when in love or in lust, explored over twenty-one vignettes with great subtly and empathy by the creator of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR who has quite evidently spent a great many years not simply considering but also listening.
It should all be so straightforward, really, this thing called love: thrilling, empowering, enlightening, giving, supportive, and celebrated for its pure beauty whenever and wherever encountered. But it comes with complications and a myriad of attendant thoughts and feelings - some of them conflicted and therefore confusing - otherwise everyone who has found a soul mate or fuck buddy would be radiant with pleasure, no one would argue and no one would ever break up.
Over and again I recognised so much within this considered and contemplative graphic novel which speaks of the universal, but BODY MUSIC also reflects a far fuller spectrum of desire and circumstances than any other fiction or non-fiction that springs immediately to mind, so it's refreshingly inclusive in that aspect too. This can only be healthy, even if some of the relationships are far from it.
For by "diversity" I do mean "between women, between men, between women and men and gender non-conformists alike, all varying in age and race" but I also mean relationships at different stages in their development and success or failure: from first confident flirtations conducted with wit and imagination to first-date post-mortems wrestled over wretchedly and separately by both individuals unsure of themselves, their attractiveness, what they said and why they said it, while one of them waits desperately in hope that the other will text as promised in order to set up a second date... just as the other frets that to do so would just be opening himself up to almost certain rejection. That one's called '"Are you sure you want to delete this contact?"' and it is agonising in its dramatic irony, whereas the courtship in 'Playing with Fire' is funny, feisty, and seductive to boot.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking at you."
The author has her eyes closed, meditating on much more than the single sense of sight could ever ascertain. Slowly one eyebrow draws dreamily upwards as her little finger nail catches between her corner teeth. Pity the poor barman, then, who is given a most excellent, explicit message to deliver a minute or two later!
Other relationships are far older. One is on the cusp of a new crossroads, a fresh movement forwards, towards even greater intimacy but someone has to speak first and trust that they're on the same mental tracks, heading in the same direction ("on the right road", as it were) whereas another relationship - or rather a series of same-time, same-place assignations - has reached such a state of intransigence and immobility that nothing new will ever be constructed, while yet another still, which might seem to have sickened on the surface, proves not merely salvageable but in no danger of destruction because one partner loves the other unconditionally.
I am trying to be discreet in my details, for the joy lies in your own discoveries and there is plenty of the unexpected to surprise both the participants and this book's audience. Such startling injections include a single, strong dash of the fantastical which is beautiful to behold, although I would emphasise that this pretty much applies throughout: winter park wonderlands frolicked in with abandon; a Montreal fully realised both in its monumental buildings and starry-night skies, streetlights calling across still waters; the zip-zip of cell-phone text messages (the vast majority mundane and inconsequential, others of the most urgent importance); beautiful body forms in bed; muscular, hot and sweaty, shirtless gyrations to a pounding club's heart beat; small, swollen buds patiently waiting out freezing snowfalls on bare, spindly twigs; oh, and that exquisitely embarrassed waiter!
There is so much to warm your hearts here, including this which I will give away from chapter one:
"You don't know each other, you haven't met.
"Yet you're about to fall in love.
"Soon both of you will be ready, at the same time.
"That will be in a year or two."
You think you're listening to an omniscient narrator proclaiming an inevitable, predestined future as a woman on her mobile strolls obliviously past a bearded, back-packed dad busily attending to his young child, the two failing - this time, only this time - to notice each other in a hot, July, municipal park.
You're being privy to the deeply romantic, entirely speculative thoughts of a woman old enough to have a working-age son who's been calling her repeatedly to dinner, while said mum has been lost in her own private reverie upon overlooking that park.
If that doesn't move you as it did me, what will do much later on is her determinedly un-embittered love for what was, a long time ago.