A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


A new review up at Amazon. My editor at The Portland Mercury never deemed to write me back about Blankets, part of why I gave up dealing with them (cranky me). But I still wanted to write something, and though Amazon isn't the best venue, it's kind of fun because I end up writing on the fly and being a little loose with it. In this one, I think I was being a bit reactionary to the internet niggles I had been hearing, too. You can click here to buy the book, but you can read the review below:

the graphic novel that's not afraid to be a novel, five stars - July 27, 2003

Reviewer: Jamie S. Rich (see more about me) from Portland, OR USA

Much has been made in recent years of how the graphic novel-and as a result, the comic book-has matured and come into its own. This is indeed, true, as subject matter and approach in the comics industry has become much more fluid. Yet, most stories were still serialized before they were printed in book form, and the ones that struck out on their own and did it in one-go (including some by my own company, Oni Press), were significant, but not yet reaching the full breadth that the word "novel" implied.

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.

Current Soundtrack: Rod Stewart, Reason to Believe disc 2 (get over it, chump)


No comments: