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Blankets Paperback – August 18, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Revisiting the themes of deep friendship and separation Thompson surveyed in Goodbye Chunky Rice, his acclaimed and touching debut, this sensitive memoir recreates the confusion, emotional pain and isolation of the author's rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing, along with the trepidation of growing into maturity. Skinny, naive and spiritually vulnerable, Thompson and his younger brother manage to survive their parents' overbearing discipline (the brothers are sometimes forced to sleep in "the cubby-hole," a forbidding and claustrophobic storage chamber) through flights of childhood fancy and a mutual love of drawing. But escapist reveries can't protect them from the cruel schoolmates who make their lives miserable. Thompson's grimly pious parents and religious community dismiss his budding talent for drawing; they view his creative efforts as sinful and relentlessly hector the boys about scripture. By high school, Thompson's a lost, socially battered and confused soul-until he meets Raina and her clique of amiable misfits at a religious camp. Beautiful, open, flexibly spiritual and even popular (something incomprehensible to young Thompson), Raina introduces him to her own less-than-perfect family; to a new teen community and to a broader sense of himself and his future. The two eventually fall in love and the experience ushers Thompson into the beginnings of an adult, independent life. Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste. His exceptional b&w drawings balance representational precision with a bold and wonderfully expressive line for pages of ingenious, inventively composed and poignant imagery.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Thompson's Good-bye, Chunkie Rice (Top Shelf, 1999) offered readers well-realized but fantastic characters in a tale that nicely combined sentiment with adventure. This second, much longer work shares the acuity for character development and dynamic sensitivity that makes the author so compulsively readable. In Blankets, however, realism reigns supreme in both the story arc and in the humanity of its characters. Thompson himself is the protagonist, and this is his tale of growing up, falling in love (and realizing the physical and moral complications that can imply), discovering the texture and limits of his faith, and arriving at a point from which he can look back at those experiences. The snowy Midwest, peopled by overweight parents, hairy youths, and lovingly depicted younger siblings-including a respectfully and realistically treated minor character with Down syndrome-is energetically realized in Thompson's expressive lines and inking. Much of the story occurs when Craig and his brother Phil are young boys and includes images of such boyish pranks as peeing on one another. Older high school students who have reached an age when nostalgia is possible will warm to Thompson's own wistfulness. This is a big graphic novel, in concept and successful execution.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
Enter Craig Thompson. Nearly five years ago, he released his first major work, GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE. It was an excellent piece of sequential fiction, but much like, say, the first album by Nirvana or Andi Watson's SKELETON KEY (or even THE COMPLETE GEISHA) or Todd Haynes' POISON, it was only a glimmer of what was to come. Since that time, Thompson has locked himself away and honed his first masterpiece-an ambitious narrative clocking in at nearly 600 pages. Sure, you can write it off as a coming of age story (a coming of age story in an art form that still is coming up with its standards for most literary genres, and thus still coming of age itself), but that would be to say THE BELL JAR is merely the story of a depressed poet or GOODFELLAS about a guy who gets an interesting job. BLANKETS is the story of an artist in a state of becoming, a boy walking down a road where people in the houses on either side are attempting to get him to stop and play in their yard. It's the tale of said boy figuring out how to stick to the middle, and stay true to himself.
Semi-autobiographical, BLANKETS outstrips the standard coming-of-age novel by giving it a perspective that only the comic book would allow him. Not even in movies could the story of an artist have that artist's vision so expertly rendered (think of how, in CRUMB, Zwigoff had to look over Crumb's shoulder to see what the illustrator saw). While the narrative thread of BLANKETS is straightforward, Thompson uses his pen to bend the world he portrays. Thus, you can step into an abstract world in the short span of a panel, see it as Thompson sees it himself. And there you get what makes the difference. The story of a boy discovering who he will be is also a book where an artist discovers a new form of expression.
And there we are, back to the beginning. This is a comic book that understands what a novel is, and a novel that has figured out how to be a comic book. There is going to be a lot of hype about this one, and the sorts of people who read and talk about "comix," needing the crooked letter to make them feel cooler, will likely come down on BLANKETS for not being cool enough, but ignore all that and trust yourself and trust the book. It's emotional and expressive and engrossing, and possibly the best thing you'll read this year-in any medium.
Blankets is an elegantly inked autobiographical coming of age story about a boy, Craig, who is dealing with mid-west mullet-sporting hicks, extremely overzealous Christians for parents, an only minimally explained instance of childhood molestation (by an apparent stranger with bad skin), much more direct and violent abuse from the before-mentioned extremely overzealous Christian father, and relief from all of this only in the form of church camp. When church camp spells your relief from it all, you know you're in trouble.
The character Craig's childhood is rendered sweetly charming by the author Craig's portrayal of two brothers sleeping in the same bed together in a poorly insulated attic room and managing to weather the turmoil of the childhood they didn't choose for themselves or each other. They draw, but most of all, they summon creativity: that force kids can bring to life in even the worst of situations.
At church camp one year, much later in his adolescence, Craig meets Raina, the alluringly drawn bad-for-a-Christian girl who Craig falls for and then the book falls for -- about half of the text, right up until a very-nearly tacked on section at the end, is spent describing Craig's slow-boil relationship with Raina. By focusing on a two-week visit to Raina's house in Michigan (Craig lives on a farm in Wisconsin), the book manages to describe and show two teenagers all crazily obsessed with each other, their families, and the bible. This mixture of obsessions keeps Craig and Raina drawn to each other and kept distant because of a complex array of barricades.
[Spoiler Warning!] When the two-week visit to Raina's house is over (look to this section of the book for some fairly scintillating teen-age heterosexual action), the book accelerates toward its closure. Craig and Raina fall apart -- but it's not that tragic; I mean really, who can sustain a long-distance relationship while in high school? Craig moves out of his parents' house at age 20, and in a revelation the entire perspective of the novel tells you is coming but is hard to imagine the particulars of, Craig falls away from the force that has captivated him his entire life: organized Christianity. In the final pages, too, we see Craig and his younger brother reconciling a bit, as the years of deprivation (emotional, mainly, but also environmental and cultural) had kept them from loving each other in the ways close brothers seem to ought to.
The book ends with Craig treading softly through the rural landscape; we know him, in those final pages, to be living in a city far from it all -- far enough to gain the needed author's perspective on the hazards of small town life and provincial thinking this book explores in such detail.