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The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel In Two Semesters Paperback – January 8, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061452483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061452482
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A sharp, fast-paced, and well-packaged academic satire, along the lines of James Hyne's The Lecturer's Tale (LJ 12/00), this is a coming-of-age story from the point of view of the paying victim (a.k.a. the student). A na?ve fellow finds himself in the hallowed, cinderblock halls of his state art school in the 1950s where, try as he might, he can't quite capture in pencil the essence of a decapitated waterfowl, an old shoe, and a detumescent pomegranate. No wonder he becomes enthralled by the charms of one Himillsy Dodd, a free spirit and the only other enrollee in the still-life course who seems to know the meaning of "detumescent." The following semester, the duo find themselves in Art 127: Introduction to Commercial Art, and the novel shifts typeface and turns into a syllabus for what might be the ultimate graphic design class. Winter Sorbeck challenges his students and himself perhaps beyond what today's law allows, but the results are all recorded in indelible ink on their Permanent Academic Records, though the novel's painful conclusion does find Sorbeck out job hunting. Kidd is an award-winning graphic artist responsible for the memorable book jackets for such titles as Jurassic Park and Love in the Time of Cholera. That should assure his first novel a healthy amount of publicity with attendant demand. For all larger public libraries and for art schools everywhere. Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kidd is a pioneer in book cover art, but this novel marks his first attempt to write the words between his magnificent covers. It tells the story of one boy's discovery of graphic design in college and his talented and cruel professor. The "novel in two semesters" follows our narrator through his first year at the ubiquitous "State U." In the first semester, he meets Himillsy Dodd, a precociously brilliant fellow art major with a great disdain for art, and takes "Introduction to Drawing," which includes such inane exercises as drawing a still life of a large, brown, and dead bird named Renaldo. Then they take graphic design with the enigmatic William Sorbeck, and life changes forever. Sorbeck shines in three dimensions on the page, a living representation of the larger-than-life professor that luckier college students have a chance to know. This is a fascinating, funny, and wonderfully written novel of graphic design that manages to deepen the reader's appreciation for the artistry and wonder of design without a single drawing. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Chip Kidd has written a funny, endearing and instantly likeable novel about art and life.
A O Cazola
Most of this book is great fun; hip and funny, and also a Work of Ideas, all about art and love and design and integrity and stuff.
David M. Chess
Aside from this, much of the slang and some of the technology sounds dated, but the attitudes and actions are pure '90s material.
K. M. Schroeder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By David M. Chess on November 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Someone needs to do a study of Needlessly Apocalyptic Endings in Modern Fiction. Most of this book is great fun; hip and funny, and also a Work of Ideas, all about art and love and design and integrity and stuff. Then (somewhere around the Frat Party scene) Kidd seems to have realized it was about time for the ending, and reached for the explosives.
The last two chapters seem to be mostly a hallucinatory dream induced by lack of sleep (the protagonist's, that is, although I could believe it of Kidd also). Which is very nice and modern and all, but I'd rather know what *happened*. Unless I'm overly dense, Kidd is violating his own quite plausible design rule: when designing an object of whatever kind, it's more important that it accomplish the purpose than that it look clever.
But anyway! It's a good book, and do read it. It won't take all that long; it's a pretty wild and energetic ride. And maybe the ending that was silly and opaque to me will be lucid and relevatory to you. You Never Know.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on December 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Cheese Monkeys is a rare kind of novel--completely off the wall, yet completely accessible, completely readable. It's the story of a freshman at a huge state college who decides to major in art because he knows it will be mishandled in some mediocre way and for his first semester, it is. He takes drawing from a woman whose artistic expertise and tastes even this 18 year old disdains. The class, however, still has its merits. He manages to befriend two diametrically opposed women who take his second semester art class--commercial (or maybe its graphic) arts. The professor is borderline insane, as are many of the assignments. Kidd does an excellent job of evoking the weirdness and the fun of college. The ending of the novel is a little bizarre, and Kidd does manage to fill the book with much of what appears to be his own philosophy of art (its not forced, which is refreshing). The novel is funny and clever and I really enjoyed it. Well done.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald R. Kelm on January 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Four stars for cleverness and fun. Two stars for not being able to close a story. Notice I'm not saying,"Resolve." Kidd is clever, entertaining, and offers wonderful--often hilarious, justifiable insights in to the demimonde of Art and the creatures to be found therein. Yet with the closing chapter, possibly two, Kidd becomes facile and employs a preposterous "deus ex machina" which more than anything suggests weariness with the story and/or an inability to end a thing which has moved beyond his ability to control/complete. I was entranced right up to the last two chapters and then felt Kidd reneged on all those high sounding principles he earlier expounded.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andi Miller on May 19, 2002
Like many others have said, what happened around PAGE 200 (major plot twist)??? In all seriousness, Kidd has done an impressive job bringing to life the adventures and uncertainties of being a Freshman Graphic Design student. Even readers with absolutely no interest in the field will surely be able to appreciate this book for its razor-sharp wit, quirky characters, and impressive sense of tension.
The main character is a joy to follow. He's Holden Caulfield'esque without the overdone self-loathing and self-destructive tendencies. He has a tidbit of angst but mostly uncertainty in the workings of life in general; he's a normal kid living away from home for the first time and enjoying the highs and lows of the college experience, and coming into his own...not to mention, dealing with some unorthodox friends and professors along the way.
I would certainly recommend this book to friends from any age group and background, because it's laugh-out-loud funny with just the right amount of drama thrown in to make it feel substantial and make a statement. I can only hope that Chip Kidd will write more in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Though Chip Kidd is best known as a "graphic designer" for book covers (as opposed to "commercial artist," a distinction he makes in the book), his talent as a writer could propel him into a whole new field--and this book into cult icon status. With a clarity of vision perhaps brought on by hindsight, he lays bare the emotional and intellectual confusion of a naïve, first year art student at a state university, a character who must find himself in an atmosphere which requires him to evaluate all the ideas and values he's uncritically absorbed to date. The character, who feels autobiographical, is lively, funny, and, I thought, totally believable, and I suspect that any reader who has ever taken an art course will empathize, if not identify, with him in some way.

As the speaker lives through this "novel in two semesters," he is profoundly affected by an off-the-wall female upperclassman, Himillsy Dodd, a free-spirited, hard-drinking woman of strong opinions, willing to challenge everyone and everything. Opposing hypocrisy wherever she finds it (virtually everywhere), Himillsy serves as a quirky mentor during the speaker's first two art classes, the second of which is with Winter Sorbeck, a never-to-be-forgotten instructor who turns his students' thinking inside-out, viciously critiquing not only of their work but also their personalities. As "Happy" deals with Sorbeck, Himillsy, the usual freshman tensions, fraternity parties, exams, critiques, and all-nighters, the reader shares his anxieties and feels his growth.

The amusing cover of the book resembles a doodled-on freshman text, with a magic marker message written on the binding and side of the closed book, bleeding into the pages themselves.
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