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Blankets Paperback – October 13, 2015
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About the Author
Craig Thompson is a cartoonist and the author of the award-winning books Blankets, Carnet de Voyage, Good-bye Chunky Rice, and Habibi. Thompson was born in Michigan in 1975, and grew up in a rural farming community in central Wisconsin. His graphic novel Blankets won numerous industry awards and has been published in nearly twenty languages around the world. Thompson lives in Portland, Oregon.
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Blankets is a heartwarming tale of a middle class boy struggling to achieve social credibility and acceptance, while remaining to to himself. It's about love as much as it is about faith. They are connected. Thompson ponders his place in the universe as a boy who got bullied and did not fit in that just wanted to draw. Then, he matures into a young man that must make the major decision as to what he wants to do with his life.
Craig Thompson is totally honest in Blankets as he reflects on his failures and life decisions in full. I think everyone can relate to this book. Craig is more than a character by the end, he is your friend, he is you. I believe that most readers will greatly relate and empathize with Craig at some point in Blankets.
His illustrations are beautiful and often moving. He captures facial expressions and the Midwest American lifestyle with such a clear understanding of the people who live therein. Thompson develops an honest verisimilitude with his thoughtful narration and quaint drawings. They are as captivating as any great artwork I've seen in graphic novels. Craig Thompson should be proud of this book. It's wondrous in its scope and insight into his life.
Blankets reminds me very much of Craig Thompson's peers in the autobiographical graphic novel medium such as Will Eisner's A Contract with God Trilogy and Eddie Campbell's ALEC comic books. For more coming of age books like Blankets, the graphic novel This One Summer is very similar in it's grounded approach to young people. If you like the love story in Blankets, then I would recommend Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. If you liked any of these books, Blankets is for you. By the same note, if you end up loving Blankets as I did, I would highly recommend these other books to you.
Premise is simple enough. You have a young boy and his brother living in rural Wisconsin. You have religious parents with no lack of authority, and a community full of "jerks". You have bullies in high-school and you have religion as an escape mechanism from plights of this world. You have a winter-camp, pretty girl and falling in love. You have a road trip, or something very similar to it and you have emotional growth connected to it. You have a disillusion and maturing, you have fears, hopes and longing. In other words, you have elements of everyone's life - rearranged a bit to suit a purpose of a story - laid out on close to a 600 pages. It could've gone to blatant cliché or it could've been boring as hell. Fortunately, it wasn't neither.
Though elements are familiar, their representation isn't. Thompson is skillful artist (which becomes more obvious in the "Habibi") and the way in which he manages to construct panels to show, indicate and cause emotions is something to behold. His line can be either simple or endlessly complex (reminiscent of arabesque or techniques of expressionism), extremely manipulative or perfectly innocent and much of the power that lies in this book does come from the Art itself, words merely supplement the picture.
And "Blankets" is powerful, have no doubt about it. It takes you back to a place and events you never quite forgot, it makes you wonder what if, it makes you pick up a phone and make a call (though You know it would be a wrong move and nothing good could come out of it), it gives you this feeling that, despite everything, world really is a wonderful place. Thompson is very careful about it, more careful than many an author out there. He never idolizes the past (though sometimes he does `preach' about it from an older perspective), nor does he dwell in it. He uses it as a fuelling ground, using his art to represent a moment (or few) that made him what he is today (moment we all, in some part, share with each other). At the same time, this is a book about personal experience and a book about `being human'.
Do you recall most famous blanket in the history of comics? If you recalled Linus's security blanket from "Peanuts" you recalled right. What Charles Schulz did in a series of cartoons, Thompson did on a more complex level. "Blankets" is a story about insecurities and various mechanisms that we use to overcome them. World is dark and full of terror (or so the saying goes), and sometimes you need a blanket under which you can devise your own world, with its own rules. Eventually, you'll have to get out (Thompson uses the famous dialogue from Plato's "Republic" to indicate this). World will not change, but you'll be more prepared.
There is so much raw beauty to be found in this book. The inescapable memories of first love, the ever-personal struggle with religion, and the importance of family are just some things touched upon. It's also very well written and delicately and tastefully drawn, especially Craig, the main character's, thoughts. There's this one part where Craig says goodbye to his girlfriend, with whom he has a long-distance relationship. The next panels show her driving away. When her car is out of sight, the final panel is of her car driving off a nonexistent cliff. I don't know about you, but when I see somebody that I love leaving, that's exactly how I feel.
This is one of the most beautiful things I have read. Craig Thompson is a genius.