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The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel In Two Semesters Paperback – January 8, 2008
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.