Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 161

Yukiko's Spinach

by Frédéric Boilet
Genre notes: memoir, journal, romance
144 pages
ISBN: 8493309346 (Amazon)

Autobiography is by its nature one of the more conceited art forms. Concocting a story of one’s own adventures to the end that they will be enjoyed by a readership of more than one’s own friends and family takes a fair amount of self-confidence. Or hubris. Or arrogance. To imagine that one’s own story is as valuable a use of a reader’s time as a fictional character’s takes guts. Or moxie. Or chutzpah. And then for an author to specially select for his autobiographical pericope a couple months’ dalliance with a young woman and detail his own skill as an adventurous lover—what does that take?

Frédéric Boilet’s apparently autobiographical* Yukiko’s Spinach is part journal, part intimate recountment of a two-month-long interlude with a girl he meets at a gallery opening in Japan. So far as romances go, we learn from the start that this one is probably doomed to a brief lifespan since Yukiko, the object of Boilet’s interest, is herself interested in someone else and will pursue that entanglement as soon as opportunity allows. It’s in the meanwhile that she’s willing to engage Boilet (or his autobiographical avatar) in some fitful and adventurous physical pairings, necessarily accelerating the evolution of their relationship at unnatural speeds towards its foreseeable culmination.

As a book primarily interested in Yukiko’s temporary place as Boilet’s carnal muse, the book amusingly (from a very meta perspective) goes to deliberate lengths to demonstrate Boilet’s part as a persistent, attentive lover. Whether absolutely non-fictional in this aspect or not, Boilet posits a version of himself that is a kind of indefatigable superman of the intimate. In the midst of their congress, he lingers over every part of Yukiko’s form, making each portion of her body a new standard of beauty, even to the point of remolding imperfection (such as chicken pox scars) into aesthetic wonders. He turns every private moment into an opportunity to once more ravish his lover, disrobing her even as she dresses from their most recent congress.

Yukiko’s Spinach exists as a revelry in a moment, a snapshot of the perfect vacation marred only by the inevitable collapse and loss at its conclusion. As autobiography, one wonders what Boilet was trying to communicate to himself—for memoir as often speaks some truth to the author as it does to the reader. If he seems somewhat set adrift (exemplified by the transient nature of his dalliances), perhaps that is a reflection of his status as a resident foreigner. He’s clearly looking for stability but simultaneously doesn’t seem to rely on its attainability. Boilet’s character seems a man trapped in flux. It’s an interesting place for a protagonist to be and most of us could probably relate on some level from at least one moment in our lives.

One of the standout praises Yukiko’s Spinach will receive almost across the board is in regard to its artistic vision. The reader sees the story unfold almost entirely in the first person. The camera through which we encounter Boilet’s experience with Yukiko is, for the most part, lodged in Boilet’s own eyes. It’s a curious technique and we are treated to a man with a perspective that roams over the entirety of his surroundings, rarely meeting Yukiko’s gaze eye-to-eye. Through this scattering of vision, Boilet unveils a character that might otherwise remain unknown. His avatar is made real by his evident distractions.

With its rugged and frank sex scenes, Boilet’s book will not be appropriate for some readers and may put off others. Personally, I did not find the book (for all its explicitness) erotic. Perhaps it was the documentary nature of the thing or its surreal first-person presence, but I felt that Yukiko’s Spinach was more an anatomy of a relationship than a lush and purposed turn-on for those in search of a sensual thrill.

*note: It does occur to me that this may not actually be autobiography, that it may instead be some kind of hyperfictionalization of Boilet’s experiences—a kind of codified wishful thinking on the author’s part. While that would certainly complicate the reading, I think it would make for a more delectable interpretive puzzle.

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