Little Nothings: Uneasy Happiness (NBM)

The third chapter in prolific French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim’s impressionistic comics diary.

 

 

128 pgs., color; $14.95
(W & A: Lewis Trondheim)
Lewis Trondheim (Laurent Chabosy) is one prolific guy. Between publication of his first comic (Psychoanalyse)  in 1990 to the announcement of his “retirement” 2004, he averaged several books per year, including the Lapinot series (published in English as The Spiffy Adventures of McConey) and the Donjon series (Dungeon in English), the latter created with Joann Sfar.  He was also one of the founders of the French publishing house L’Association, and in 2006 was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême for his body of work.
Retirement for Trondheim means publishing less, not publishing nothing. The recent appearance of the third volume of Little Nothings, a sort of impressionistic diary in comics form, shows that he’s still at it and hasn’t lost his touch. There are no major issues or breathtaking revelations in Uneasy Happiness, just a straightforward presentation of the author’s thoughts, feelings and experiences.  It’s all very low-key and observational: Trondheim battles a stubborn mouse (with little assistance from his overly contented cat), marvels at Italian fashion statements (should that guy on crutches really be wearing a Batman t-shirt? And did you know that at the Duomo in Florence, bare-shouldered women are given a crepe-tissue serape to cover themselves with?) and declines a squash match in order to not risk a sprained ankle immediately before departing on a vacation in Fiji.
The character of “Lewis Trondheim” in these comics is a sort of mild-mannered Everyman who is open to experience but somewhat befuddled by the world around him. He’s also prey to odd thoughts which can be mildly disturbing (when you’re putting honey in your tea to ease a sore throat, that may not be the best time to reflect on the saliva of the thousands of bees which made it) but this trait doesn’t keep him from enjoying the small things in life, however, from making a mashed-potato-and-gravy volcano to using a little germ warfare on a rambunctious fellow airline passenger.
Most pages of Uneasy Happiness tell a self-contained story or observation using a variety of simple, frameless layouts, although four more-or-less equal panels is the most common configuration. The art is the winning element in this collection: Trondheim puts a lot of detail into each sketch and makes effective use of ink and watercolors to create a real sense of place and character (not always easy given his predilection for drawing people with the heads of animals and birds). I’m less impressed by the thoughts he chose to record in Uneasy Happiness: too pages many could well have been left on the cutting room floor because there’s just nothing special about what is being expressed.  On the other hand there is something seductive about the air of calm which Trondheim projects in Uneasy Happiness and if you like observational humor (true confession: I never found Jerry Seinfeld’s standup comedy particularly insightful or funny either) you’ll probably rate this collection higher than I do. Likewise if you are a Francophile: quite possible you may see insight where I see preciousness. 
You can see a preview of Little Nothings: Uneasy Happiness on Trondheim’s blog on the NBM web page and if you read French you can see more of his work on his own web page, www.lewistrondheim.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh

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