Book Recommendation of the Month

August 2003 Book

--Posted by Riposte101 @ 8/28/03 00:07 PST.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

I was walking the floors of the San Diego Comic Con when I happened upon the Top Shelf Publishing's booth. I was in a hurry to reach one of the random panel discussions on the schedule so I picked up a hefty graphic novel with the title of Blankets on it and asked the writer and artist Craig Thompson, "sell me your book in one line."

He replied, "Neil Gaiman said it best I think, 'moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest, and probably the most important graphic novel since Jimmy Corrigan'."

"Here’s your thirty dollars," was my answer.

What I got in return for my money was a heart-breaking, moving, page-turner that had me racing to the end to discover what happens, yet at the same time not wanting for it to end.

Blankets is an intimate autobiographical story about a young troubled artist growing up in a devoutly Christian family. It follows him through the abuse he suffers at the hand of others, his feeling of powerlessness, his loss, his fears, his hope and his first love.

Because this book is based off of actual events the characters never act according to a script and that comes across on the page. The relationships are complicated and three-dimensional. This lends this book its self-effacing, real quality.

We follow Craig through his formative years as a youth in Wisconsin sharing a bed with his brother Phil. Through the hot and humid summers and freezing winters he deals with bullies, vindictive teachers and even molestation from a babysitter. The writer expresses his insecurities about his ability to make a difference in the world around him. He is unable to protect his younger brother and feels guilt over this powerlessness. Craig finds escape through art and religion. On through high school we follow the author as he meets his first girlfriend from Christian winter camp, Raina. Through her we are introduced to her own complicated family life. Raina’s parents are getting a divorce and family problems abound. They find solace in each other. Thompson does not spare us the details in his 582-page tome and as I mentioned before, the novel is not predictable and for me to reveal anymore would be criminal.

What makes Blankets remarkable is Thompson's mastery over the comic medium. His images and words are haunting and stay in the mind long after you put down the novel. He melds innovative fonts together with art that carries both movement and emotions. I sat there reading and watching the story progress dumbfounded as the artist did things that I have never seen done before. And let me tell you that, when it comes to graphic novels and comics I am by no means a lightweight. I have read thousands of comics and graphic novels and some of what I consider to be the greatest literary works of our time has been delivered to us in this medium. This is an example of a master at the height of his craft. There is one particularly poignant scene that I would like to highlight that illustrates Thompson's command. This scene occurs when the main character burns his childhood drawings to escape the memories of his youth. Needless to say that Blankets is a work that had a profound effect on me.