Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth Hardcover – Sep 12 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Ware's graphically inventive, wonderfully realized novel-in-comics follows the sad fortunes of four generations of phlegmatic, defeated men while touching on themes of abandonment, social isolation and despair within the sweeping depiction of Chicago's urban transformation over the course of a century. Ware uses Chicago's World's Colombian Exposition of 1893, the great world's fair that signaled America's march into 20th-century modernity, as a symbolic anchor to the city's development and to the narrative arc of a melancholic family as haplessly connected as are Chicago's random sprawl of streets and neighborhoods. In 1893, nine-year-old Jimmy Corrigan is abandoned atop a magnificent fair building by his sullen, brutish father ("I just stood there, watching the sky and the people below, waiting for him to return. Of course he never did"). Nearly a century later, another Jimmy CorriganDthe absurdly ineffectual, friendless grandson of that abandoned childDreceives a letter from his own long-absent, feckless father, blithely and inexplicably requesting him to come and visit. Ware's surprisingly touching story recounts their strange and pathetically funny reunion, invoking the emotional legacy of the great-grandfather's original act of desertion while presenting a succession of Corrigan men far more comfortable fantasizing about life than living it. The book 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. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
To quote another reviewer, the story is very "unilaterally single-minded - about the pathology and sadness of being a Corrigan." So that tends to get tiring sometimes when you're reading the book and you may want more depth about a different character in the story.
After visiting this site and reading other reviews, I decided that this story wasn't something I should miss. So I gave it another go and continued where I had left off. What I discovered is that each panel should be taken in slowly. Most are profound in their message, whether you are making it up in your head or not. even if you read it quickly the first time, go back and really look at some of those images over again. I'm not even sure I would read this over again for a while, since the sadness seems to seep into every part of the book and reader, but I imagine it's just as thoughtful the second time around. The characters are tragic, yet fascinating. I can't say it's the most uplifting or revolutionary story ever, but it's definitely worth sticking with.
Whether or not one enjoys the story, it's nearly indisputable that the illustrations are some of the best from a novel of this nature. The information graphics are beautifully drawn and laid out. They can be very complex, so re-reading and re-visualizing them helps. I would recommend this book solely for that even if the story wasn't great as well (luckily for us, it is).
There's a strange two dimensionality to the images, which makes it more illustration than drawing. Buildings tend to be drawn in elevation, interiors are in orthographic views, and simple shapes predominate. The effect is an abstraction of the environment that crosses temporal bounds, enters fantasies and nightmares, and recollects cruel memories.
Like Spiegelman and Clowes, Chris Ware takes his comic into areas that are usually considered to be the territory of literature, but it would require immense effort to imagine JIMMY CORRIGAN in novel form. The content and the form are inseparable. The story may be a downer, but ultimately it isn't depressing because it is well-told, well-illustrated, and somewhere within it is an awful truth about misogyny, race, childhood trauma, and isolation that we'd just rather not face.
Chris Ware could have spent years writing a big graphic novel about superheroes, wizards, or vampires --- you know, something easy. But he didn't. Instead, he stuck his neck out and created this, one of the best graphic novels ever written, but also one that challenges the reader. Chris Ware makes it clear what a real graphic novel is. It's an expert use of the comic book medium that deserves a much larger audience.
The story revolves around 37 year-old James Corrigan who we find out is a lonely, emotionally-impaired, human castaway. All the sudden his father, whom he's never met, decides he wants to spend time with Jimmy. Throughout the entire book, we go through not so seamless transitions into his fantasies and daydreams. At times, it can get confusing as to where they begin or end, but that's the whole point sometimes. We also go through other generations of Jimmy's family to take a look at their tribulations.
The story can get really depressing at times. Throughout the book, you're hoping for something good to happen to the protaginist. But just because of the overall depressing elements in the book doesn't mean there isn't any humor in it. There are some funny moments, but they tend to be subtle.
If you're into graphic novels, or even if you're not, I urge anyone who's in for a decent story to read this. Just don't expect the feel-good story of the year.
Most recent customer reviews
Jimmy Corrigan is an awkward and drab character in his mid-thirties, who's social circle is limited to his mother. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2010 by S. Lavigne
Very strangely, there are similarities between this book's storyline and Barak Obama's «Dreams of my Father»: a short, not particularly fruitful meeting between a son and the... Read morePublished on Aug. 3 2009 by Pierre Gauthier
This has to be just about the worst book I have ever read -- and it takes a lot for me to say that.
I am certainly no stranger to the world of graphic novels, having... Read more
I had seen a bit of Chris Ware's Artwork in newyork and was impressed with his graphic skills. I decided to pick up this book, just to see some more of his drawings. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2004 by Christopher Magowan
quite simply put: buy this book. This is one of the most beautiful and heart breaking books i have ever read. This book will change your life if you open up and listen.Published on May 9 2004
Years from now, people won't remember that the graphic novel was once a marginal format, consigned to hobby shops and newsstands. Read morePublished on April 29 2004 by C M Magee
Ware does an amazing job of creating one of the most moving graphic novels I have ever read. The painstakingly detailed drawings add an unparalleled scope to this novel following... Read morePublished on March 12 2004 by Naive Pegasus
There are just no characters you can relate to here. Jimmy is a cypher. His father is a crudely-drawn caricature of a working class man.Published on March 10 2004
This is not high art. What Ware does have however (and for some, myself included, this makes it worth the 20 bucks) is a great style, visually. This book looks great. Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2004 by J. Russell
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