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Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth Hardcover – September 12, 2000
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Ware's hero is a doughy, middle-aged loser who retreats into fantasies that he is "The Smartest Kid on Earth." The minimal plot involves Jimmy's tragicomic reunion with the father who abandoned him in childhood. In abruptly juxtaposed flashbacks, Ware depicts previous generations of Corrigan males, revealing how their similar histories of rejection and abandonment culminated in Jimmy's hapless state. What makes the slight story remarkable is Ware's command of the comics medium. His crisp, painstaking draftsmanship, which sets cartoonish figures in meticulously detailed architectural settings, is matched by his formal brilliance. Ware effectively uses tiny, repetitive panels to convey Jimmy's limited existence, then suddenly bursts a page open with expansive, breathtaking vistas. His complex, postmodern approach incorporates such antiquated influences as Windsor McCay's pioneering Little Nemo strips and turn-of-the-century advertising, transforming them into something new, evocative, and affecting. His daunting skill transforms a simple tale into a pocket epic and makes Jimmy's melancholy story the stuff of cartoon tragedy. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“This haunting and unshakable book will change the way you look at your world. Ware captures landscapes made to flatten emotion—a clinic shrouded in snow, a sterile apartment complex—and yet shows the reader the meaning and even beauty in every glimpse from a highway, every snippet of small talk.” —Time magazine
“Jimmy Corrigan pushes the form of comics into unexpected formal and emotional territory.” —Chicago Tribune
“Graphically inventive, wonderfully realized . . . [Jimmy Corrigan] is wonderfully illustrated in full color, and Ware’s spare, iconic drawing style can render vivid architectural complexity or movingly capture the stark despondency of an unloved child.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Ware’s use of words is sparing, and at times maudlin. But the real joy is his art. It's stunning. In terms of attention to detail, graceful use of color, and overall design—Ware has no peer. And while each panel is relentlessly polished—never an errant line or lazily rendered image—his drawings, somehow, remain delicate and achingly lyrical.” —Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
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The story shifts between two time periods, and also has brief glimpses into fantasies and intermediate periods in the characters' lives. Mainly it's about a middle aged man who has never known his father going to see him for the Thanksgiving weekend (about 2/3 of the book), and his grandfather's experience as a young boy living with his father during the 1893 Columbian World's Fair (the other 1/3).
I'm not sure if the printing Amazon is selling is the same as the one I read from the library, but in the one I read, even the front and back covers and title pages had text and comics full of dark humor and self-deprecation. Reading the book can get a bit overwhelming, but every time I was getting confused or felt it was going too far, something stunning popped up to push me forward.
I don't want to give too much away, but for anyone who is not prejudiced against graphic novels or character-driven books, this is a must-read.
I am not (and never have been) much of an active connoisseur of graphic novels. Only in rare instances have I ever purchased and fully enjoyed such an item. I received "Smartest Kid" as a gift from a friend of mine, which she described as 'a decadent film experience'
Indeed this book (which really could pass as a novel) is quite a decadent, nostalgic stroll on a downward spiral into a bottomless pit. The story takes place in Chicago, and Jimmy (our poor protagonist with no self confidence) is chucked into a situation where he is to 'reunite' with his estranged father. Jimmy daydreams, he has flashbacks, and is awkward in every possible situation... and we do too right along with him. Ware's unusual and somewhat confusing style of paneling lends itself to the current journey at hand, which makes for an intense and throught provoking read. This book is a real page turner. How will it end? WHEN will it end? Is there hope for Jimmy, or is he a lost soul?
This is not reccomended for the younger crowd. There's a small amount of profanity and sexual subject matter. Many of the situations cater toward the understanding of an adult, and there is definitely a lot to read. But all that said, this is an intellegent book with a lot to offer. It might make a good item to buy for father's day. As my dad told me when I got it for him, "thanks for a thoughtful and rewarding gift."
This collection pulls together a lot of content that should not be read in a marathon, but rather enjoyed slowly to savor the details. Nothing in this book is expendable.
Grandpa Jimmy's story of being abandoned at the Chicago World Exhibition was painful, his brief connection to a sister he never knew was powerful and Jimmy's doubt is always a source for searching the reader's own soul.
Good work from a Master.