“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”, Rob Fleming famously asks in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. The characters in François Samson Dunlop and Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau’s Pinkerton are certain that it’s the latter.
I came upon Pinkerton (the book) while browsing through my favorite comic book store in the world, the Drawn & Quarterly store. Pinkerton (the record) is one of my all-time favorites, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read a comic inspired by it. I promptly picked it up, in its original French edition (there is also an English edition, but I figured I could use the practice).
I’m really enjoying it so far (I say this because I haven’t actually finished reading the comic - it got accidentally left behind during a recent move), and believe many who share my interest for early Weezer and comic books will feel the same. The story really seems to be an answer to Hornby’s eternal question: two friends, one of whom has been recently dumped, decide that the reason they can’t make relationships work is because they have been programmed to fail by popular music. They name Pinkerton the worst offender, and set out on a journey to analyze and, hopefully, destroy the evil influence the record apparently has on their lives.
There are other themes that permeate the book, such as the fear of obsolescence in a world where the main characters can’t understand or relate to what younger kids are calling music these days, something many will be able to relate to (myself included). Nostalgia is definitely a major player. It’s easy to see the authors have a deep understanding of these themes, their characters, and the references they use, and as a result the book becomes very engrossing and relatable. If you ever had an extensive record collection, spent hours talking about music and movies with your friends, and believed it all mattered, these characters will feel like old friends to you. The writing is overall very clever, with witty dialogue throughout it all. The duo also does a good job of capturing life in Montreal, down to the poutine, which I personally appreciated.
The art is very unique and stylized, which may seem as an odd choice for such as story, but starts feeling more and more right for it as you progress through the book. Dunlop has developed a style that is very much his own, which lets us feel what the characters are feeling while still reminding us none of this is too serious. I would love to see what he does next.
Pinkerton (the book) is available in French and English, and is sure to please fans of good pop music, comics, and people who have trouble with their relationships. I know I can’t wait to get my copy back and read the final pages.