Lilli Carré's wee book Tales of Woodsman Pete was among the haul brought back from last weekend's jaunt to Portland, and I can't come up with a better brief summary of this gem than is available on the publisher's own site: "a collection of vignettes and stories about a solitary albeit gregarious woodsman with a loose grasp on his own personal history and that of the outside world."
Actually, once you've finished reading the book, that description sounds just about right. If you're considering this book, you need to know that Woodsman Pete lives alone after the inadequately and inconsistently described death of his wife, in the company of his bearskin rug, named Philippe, and an assortment of mounted heads (birds, moose, and so on).
Pete's all about the storytelling, not necessarily about getting the details right. As he puts it himself when he's NOT talking about his wife, "it's hard to remember all the details -- you just gotta tie together what you haven't forgotten and hope it can stand on its own two feet" (p.66). His wife isn't particularly important to the story (a good thing, since her death is placed before the book's first page), except that Pete's a character who's living alone but clearly wasn't meant to be that way. Mixed in with the stories that Pete tells in order to seem less alone are two other perspectives: (1) Paul Bunyan tells some of his own stories, shifting them out of pure myth, and (2) we get to watch Pete go about his days seemingly outside the view he'd take of them -- the Saturday night page is especially good in this light, both hilarious though sad. These shifts in perspective make the book a whole lot better than it might otherwise be, because they come across as sensitive rather than obvious.
It's a small book, less than 80 pages long, and I know that graphic novels don't work for everyone, but it's worth the price of admission. Graphic novel, though: graphic novella? It's not a collection of strips, exactly, because they work together to exceed the sum of their parts, but it's episodic rather than narrative. It's a form I'm still getting used to, but I liked this book an awful lot.
For a few preview pages, click here. Good stuff!