Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blankets - Craig Thompson

The absolute first thing you notice about Craig Thompsons autobiographical graphic novel is that it's obscenely huge. 582 pages huge. Despite this it took me two days to read - granted, I WAS sick, and staying in bed all day with a book I could use to knock out a burglar with seemed like a good idea - due in most part to the incredible speed of the story.

And I don't mean the narrative, though that moves along pretty fast on it's own. The book is full of lushly patterned and illustrated splash pages where our protagonist dreams, imagines or recollects. They come thick and fast in some sections and before you know it you've rolled through 20 pages and feeling mighty proud of yourself.

We follow Craig, our central character, through his young childhood and teens into his young adult life. The story is very loosely linear, though through flashbacks and dreams we slowly piece together stories of his childhood and how they mesh with him later in life. He has been brought up in a small town, Fundamentalist Christian environment that has formed his attitude of guilt, sexuality, the afterlife and the people around him. The meat of the book takes place in a two week period that he spends at his tentative girlfriends house in Michigan, battling with his desire for her and how it fits with his love of Christ and the belief that what he feels for her is wrong. 

It's a really rough read, and Thompson does this rather mean thing where he lulls you into a false sense of security and then emotionally gutpunches you. Then does it again. AND AGAIN. As if this character doesn't have enough issues with a religious crisis, he's undergoing an extremely rough puberty, bullied, harassed by members of his Church and haunted by the trauma of his childhood. Like I said - it's rough. But it's also very beautiful, and very redeeming. He does come to some sort of peace by the end, and you certainly feel like he's earned it. It makes it a touch more worthwhile to know it's autobiographical too. I come out the end going "aaaw, buddy, gimme a hug" because surely that wouldn't be completely creepy. 

Above all else, even though my childhood (for example) cannot compare with his own, you can feel the points of connection - the inward struggle between yourself and the person you're expected to be, the vulnerability we all have - regardless of age - when faced with our parents, and complete devastation of your first love. 

In some ways I wanted it to be longer - we get teased with a glimpse of him in the city, away from home and a bit dazed with his sudden freedom, and I wanted more. More happy Craig! Please? Haven't we all been through enough?

I have this in the young adult section of the library and I wonder sometimes if it reallyshould be there, but - I don't know. I wonder what it would have been like to read this as a teenager, and maybe find something to connect with and a glimpse of how good you have it in comparison. It probably would have helped me. I was an emo teenager.

In summary it's beautiful and saddening and completely worth your time. I may or may not have cried. A fair bit. Literary merit: 5 out of 5. Guilty pleasure: 2 out of 5. I wouldn't really call it pleasurable. 


  1. Been meaning to get this for such a long time but my local bookstore's copy is scuffed to shit and I refuse to buy it unless it's heavily discounted. And they will never restock or discount.
    Ah! An amazon link. To buy online? Click!

  2. Andrei! Be warned that an even bigger fancier edition came out very recently.

  3. you will not regret. it is awesome. and his new book (Habibi) comes out September - and it's BIGGER than Blankets!!

  4. It's hardcover and the pages are bigger. I could have sworn it had a new cover too but maybe not.

  5. yeah, it's a new cover. compare the cover at the top of the review to the one on the amazon link at the bottom.

  6. yeah, it's a new cover. compare the cover at the top of the review to the one on the amazon link at the bottom.

  7. Thats cool! I saw this at the local comic crypt and was thinking about picking it up. Now it's definitly on my list.

  8. I absolutely loved this book...Thompson made me feel like he was my best mate that I had known all my life and that is an incredible skill.