on June 14, 2001
Dan Clowes' graphic novel, "Ghost World" tells the story of Enid Coleslaw and her best friend Rebecca during the months between their high school graduation and the following October. The girls curse a lot, obsess over freaks and strange events in their lives and eventually come to realize their childhood friendship may not survive their transition into adulthood.
Clowes has an amazing ability to zero in on life's smallest moments and find in them a fragile poetry. He's also not afraid to make his characters fallible, and sometimes, in the manner of callous youth, even cruel. Enid and Rebecca dub a waiter "Weird Al" because of his curly hair, and play a rude prank on a poor boob whose only crime was to gain their notice by placing a pathetic personal ad. And yet you won't hate the characters. They're vulnerable and honest in a very believable way, and their emotional journey through their final months together accurately depicts longing and unease, their nostalgia for things the way they were, and their need for different lives. For Rebecca, it's to hold onto things as they are, and for Enid, it's to go someplace else not to find herself, but to become someone different.
The story's also full of humor and mystery. Enid and Rebecca inhabit a world of strange grafitti, of diners and run-down apartments where things tend to happen just outside the frame, or within windows. And Clowes' two-toned, semi-realistic, sometimes cartoony depiction of the various geeks, pervos and schmoes who inhabit "Ghost World" is dead on... the dopey expressions, the sudden crises, the need to feel something and the fear that accompanies that desire... it's all there in his characters' faces.
Reminiscent of Will Eisner's work (and just a touch of Charles Burns'), and with a hip, modern feel, "Ghost World" provides a truly amazing and unique reading experience.
Seeing what was one of 2001's refreshing alternatives to the cinema, i.e. Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World, was what prompted me to get the graphic novel that inspired the movie, and I was NOT disappointed, believe you me.
Most of the scenarios seen in the movie are in the book. The garage sale, the lame comedian, the "Satanists," the 50's diner with "Weird Al," the prank call leading to the fake date, the note on Josh's door, etc. Two of them involve different characters. Enid's visit to the adult shop has Josh as her unwilling escort, while the recipient of the fake date was an unnamed character. Seymour was the subsitute in the movie for both occasions.
The interactions between Enid and Rebecca are realistic and human, as the bored duo spend days looking for excitement. Towards the end, their friendship gets frayed, as both have different visions of where they want to be, and the differences between them become pronounced and explored. Rebecca wants to belong somewhere, but Enid isn't sure.
The humor here is more human and natural while being profane at times. Certain characters add to the laughs, such as the obnoxious John Ellis, a right-leaning WASP who endorses controversial views and people, such as a ex-priest into child porn. He might as well be a refined Eminem. He constantly taunts Enid whenever they meet. In one conversation, we learn poor Enid's last name--Coleslaw. Enid: "My Dad has his name changed legally!" To which Ellis replies, "From what... three-bean salad?" Now that's funny! Another bit: Enid: "Look how hot we are... How come no boys ask us out on dates?" In the next frame, she says "Maybe we should be lesbos!" to which Rebecca says "Get away from me!"
Josh may be awkward and shy, but he is, as Enid tells him, "the last decent person on Earth." Both want to go out with him, but he is put off by Enid's sarcasm and he isn't sure about Rebecca. When pressed on his political views, he says he endorses "policies opposed to stupidity and violence,... cruelty in any form, censorship..." That makes two of us.
I've wondered this since I saw the movie, but does the bus stop where Norman finally gets his bus and where Enid goes, symbolizes hope? There's no interaction with Norman in the book, but it's revealed that the bus line has been reopened, while there's no such information provided in the movie. The novel doesn't change the symbolism of the bus stop.
Compare the book to the movie, which is different in some ways, but still explores the themes of alienation and growing up; see how perfect Thora Birch and Scarlet Johansson were in playing Enid and Rebecca. Both are stunning. Truly a rare gem of a comic.
on March 22, 2005
Okay so I admittedly didn't exactly recognize myself in Enid and Rebecca, but who among us didn't know others who did talk and act like this, if not ourselves? Here Clowes displays his uncanny ability to capture the essential young adult. Enid and Rebecca come out of the pages and grab you where you know you recognize them: Memory Lane. Daniel Clowes creates such realistic characters, that I felt quite awed at his ability and artistry in concisely capturing the awkwardness, self-doubt, angst, and plain stupidity/cruelty of the Teen. Yet he doesn't create portraits of these characters that are overly-bleak. There is a yearning you can feel the girls go through, and I don't mean sexual frustration, but a dire longing to go beyond that threshold of childhood into... well, something more than what they've known. It's not an easy or pretty journey to make, but in their own ways they attempt. The outcome includes misunderstandings, hurt feelings, reconciliation, confusion, and then, as naturally as they felt being together, they fall into separate paths. The movie is not the same as the book, but it embodies a similar spirit. It's honest, admittedly gritty, and Clowes captures well the outward decorum as well as the inward struggles of the Teen: great chasm between childhoold and adulthood.
on April 24, 2004
Daniel Clowes', 'Ghost World,' is a shining example on how effective the medium of the graphic novel can be when coupled with fantastic, highly literate writing. Clowes' brilliance is demonstrated with his remarkable ability in capturing dialogue and the psyches of his late-teenage female characters - Enid and Becky. In fact, their characterizations and conversations seems so authentic and natural that it's almost as if Clowes videotaped real-life snippets of actual teenagers lives and then fashioned comic strips out of them.
Unlike the movie adaptation, which had a sustained narrative, the graphic novel is comprised of episodic vignettes that seem more like a collection of short stories. These little tales are packed with so much melodrama, sharp-humour, keen observation and emotion that by the time you're finished with this 80 or so page book you'll feel like you've already digested volumes.
I can't recommend this book highly enough and whether or not you've seen the movie you definitely need to read the original source. Top quality stuff all the way through.
on January 9, 2002
Ghost World is short, and I read it in an evening, but the images still resonate in my head. I was particularly touched by Clowes' style of drawing, and how he could evince complex emotions by just the look of a character's face. The world that high school best friends Enid and Becky inhabit seems bleak and empty, but I certainly remember those endless summer afternoons just wandering my hometown with my best friend, looking for ways to waste the time. This is probably my first experience with something that really captured the feel of a time I was growing up in---especially Enid's almost compulsive need to constantly reinvent her image as a way of finding her identity and feeling comfortable in her own skin. Especially in the early nineties, the small world I inhabited seemed rife with the need to be a strange individual and Ghost World certainly made me remember the alternative record store, the pretentious cafe, and my peers obsessing over the concepts of selling out and corporate America. It's sad the way Enid and Becky grow apart, and I think most people can relate to that, and it made me a bit nostalgic for the past. The end, in which Josh and Becky are together, and Enid is alone, leaving Ghost World, exemplifies the necessity of growing beyond some person or some thing---once considered so important to our daily lives---in order to become something more than what we were. And how the future is all at once so empty and limitless and blessedly unknown.
on January 6, 2006
Enid and Rebecca, the main characters of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel, are recent high school graduates residing in an unspecified city and best friends who share an ironic and sarcastic sensibility about life. Now facing the start of adulthood, which they approach with ambivalence, the two appear to want to remain fun loving adolescents, proudly existing as outsiders and mocking everyone and everything - from their classmates, parents and the book's various oddball characters to faux nostalgia, porn parlors and outdated fads. Over eight chapters, Ghost World explores the day-to-day lives of adolescent characters whose lives are in transition, but to an uncertain future. Enid's father wants her to take a college placement test and to enroll in a faraway university; Rebecca resists such a goal, and tries to make Enid feel guilty about this. The two girls also develop their relationship with Josh, and there is a hint that both characters have a romantic attraction to him. Nevertheless, they also treat him as a pal, and as an object of their jokes. In one memorable scene, Enid talks Josh into escorting her into Adams, a local adult bookstore, so that she can gasp with bemusement at all that it contains. By the book's end, the girls' friendship ends. Rebecca is working, unhappily, behind the counter of a fast food establishment, and Enid, having not gotten into her college, ponders a world coming apart at the seams.
As a graphic novel, Ghost World offers a series of expressive illustrations in black, white and blue-green colors, in an average of six to nine panels per page. Using such visuals, the book is cinematic, offering a framing of the scene and characters at varying degrees of distance, and allowing for close-ups revealing of the characters' inner state. While the story's plot is non-linear and anecdotal, and the author's tone is somewhat detached, these techniques are nevertheless effective at giving the reader much insight into the lives of two alienated, unconventional characters. It should be noted that Ghost World was made into a critically acclaimed film in 2000.
on January 6, 1999
Clowes gives a very effective characterization of his main characters, and even the minor ones come to life. Again and again I kept feeling a sense of recognition in his narrative- his characters did and said things similar to what I or people I knew did when we were teenagers. Insightful and impressive- I would highly recommend it, especially to anyone who hasn't realized how good some recent graphic novels can be; it ranks with the best novels and stories I've read lately.
on October 19, 2000
I've read this book so many times, I can't even count at this point. There's something somewhat intangible about the draw it has. Perhaps it's the *realness* of the characters--Enid and Rebecca--that makes it so appealing, and maybe it's the way we can all probably relate with them. At the point when they go to Josh's and leave the note, "We came to f*#k you, but you weren't here. Therefore you must be gay," (that's not totally accurate since I don't have the book in front of me, but you get the idea) you realize how much you love these girls and wish they would grow up at the same time (and, sadly, that's what they do at the end). And sometimes I think I used to be just like them when I was in high school.
I would say it's akin to Chester Brown's "I Never Liked You," or some of the stories in Adrian Tomine's "Sleepwalk." Needless to say, though, it's one of the best graphic novels I've read.
I also heard recently they're making this into a movie, with Thora Birch playing Enid. Dear lord, I hope they get it right. It would be simply devestating if it wasn't totally true to this beautiful graphic novel.
on July 16, 2002
So, you're a despondent teenage girl, fresh out of high school, and you and your best friend in the world have little to do beyond hang out at coffee shops and mock your fellow humans while hovering on the fringe of acceptable society. Our heroine Enid Coleslaw and her best friend Rachel Doppelmeyer are not glamour girls, are not part of the popular crowd, but seem quite happy with their roles of caustic observers.
Ghost World covers that simultaneously fragile and empowering period of life immediately following graduation from high school, before having to head off to college or a job or whatever the future may bring. While it would be easy to dislike Enid and Rachel for their sarcasm, their overactive imaginations, their snide cruelty, Clowes does an excellent job of bringing out the insecurities and the fears behind the girls' bravado.
In some unquantifiable way, Clowes's artwork matches the story and the characters perfectly. A little off, a little oddly out of proportion at times, sometimes beautiful, sometimes awkward. All in all, a great mix, and certainly worth a read.
on August 11, 1997
Clowes has only done a few stories of any
length (I barely want to call Like a Velvet Glove
Cast in Iron a story, it's far too surreal and
detatched -- and then that would leave what, the amateurish Lloyd Llewellyn stories -- and what else? ), but of them Ghost World is his best. Two teenage girls who do everything
together make fun of everyone else and
occasionally deal with some more substantial
personal troubles. Like all of his work, it's
mostly a vehicle for Clowes' own views and
criticisms, but there's a tenderness to these
connected stories that's absent from his more ferocious shorter pieces, which makes his violent
opinions a bit easier to swallow. If you find that
most of what's in Eightball (his serial comic, which is always recommendable and of an inhumanly consistent quality) to be maybe too spiteful or harsh, (personally, I don't) Ghost World might be more to your liking. The best
overview of his short strips is probably Lout
Rampage, but any issue of Eightball would do