on April 14, 2004
When you first come into physical contact with this book, taking this brick-sized 600 page monster into your hands and cracking open the covers - the heft alone should tell you that this is no ordinary graphic-novel/comic-book. A few pages into this book and you'll immediately be hooked. Your fingers will flip through page after page and before you know it you'll already have consumed several hundred pages of what will surely go down as a monument to the medium of the graphic novel the way Art Spiegelman's, 'Maus,' did in the 80's and Neil Gaiman's, 'Sandman' series offered throughout the 90's.
'Blankets,' at its core is a simple, timeless story (coming of age, first-love, alienation, anxiety, pursuit of spiritual identity, teen-angst) told thousands of times over the millenia (books, poems, songs, movies, television) but perfectly captured, perhaps for the first time, in comic-strip form. This book is exquisitely plotted, paced, written and drawn and by the end of it all one can't help but be left dazed at the sheer artistic excellence demonstrated by Thompson, from start to finish, through thousands of panels. Visually, the black and white artwork is a stunner but perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of all is Thompson's gift for prose with not a wasted word to be found in his minimalistic narrative that still manages to be filled with layer after layer of subtext.
This truly is a title not to be missed by anyone with an appreciation for the written word, not to mention the graphical novel format. The stylish cover design and paper quality also lends itself very well as a gift-giving item.
on August 26, 2005
This is by far one of the most outstanding pieces of literature i've ever had the pleasure of reading. I would have to say my only negative thought is that it rips me out of my terminal state of uniqueness. It's the first thing i've ever read that tells my story growing up to a T. I remember vividly some of the same exact thoughts the protagonist encounters (and even some of the same events). As oddly close to my own experiences it may be, this book finnaly put an answer to that eternal question i've had of "what happened to her?" And what exactly I could do about it.
You have to read it to find out.
on April 7, 2004
That is really all there is to say. I just sat down tonight and read all 582 pages in one sitting. This is not to brag mind you -- I am not a fast reader (truly this took most of the night). I am having to force myself not to re-read this book TONIGHT. It is that good. But I must go to work tomorrow and so I need sleep. But I seriously considered calling in sick tomorrow, just to read it again tonight.
This is one of the best introspective and thoughtful, well-paced, books I have ever read. Ever. And it is so accessible. If you have ever dealt with issues with your family, spiritual things, or romantic love, then you will definately get something out of this book -- even if it is just the book getting some tears out of you. But it won't be. There is WAY more to this book than just a rollercoaster ride of emotions. What depth.
Well, i guess i could go on ranting about this book, but then your reading this would just take up time that you could be using to read this book. No, time that you SHOULD be using to read this book. Sufice it to say that this is easily one of the best books that i have ever read in my life. And in addition, it is one of the most relivent to life in general.
This book is, without question, a must-read.
on April 7, 2004
This is definitely one of the longer graphic novel storylines I've ever read, but worth every second invested in it. The story is bittersweet, and the recollections, emotions and feelings ring so true and feel like such sweet sentiment, it was really hard not to have FEELINGS for the characters at the end of the story.
Feelings and emotion are aspects that are rarely PERFECTED in the medium of the Graphic novel, but seems to be at least close to perfection here. Additionally, there's only few comic books or Graphic Novels that I would be quick to rave about, but this one seems to make the list. Since I've had the book, I've read it three times, and the first time I literally couldn't put it down until I finished (which, at 500+ pages, means it's not always the best idea to start this one around 11:00 at night, like I did...)
I've also lent this book to three friends already, and all of them have either bought the book (2), or I've had to literally STEAL it back from them because they were also as fond of the story as I.
The fact of the matter is that this graphic novel is beyond words. I can't tell ASPECTS of the story without feeling like I'll do it an injustice. I can relate, as just about everyone can to some extent, but I just can't put the words to paper the way I'd like to. I can't even begin to explain how much I liked the story, and my writing ability isn't good enough to give it the credit it deserves...
I will say this, this is a story of relationships, growing up, and just life in general. If you think graphic novel means superheros in tights, this isn't for you, but if you think you'd like a story about growing up and the little things that come along with it, don't miss this book, regardless of whether or not it's a graphic novel, because it's just one of the best stories I've read in a long time (and the fact that it's a graphic novel doesn't deter from the story at all, in fact, it definitely makes it better)...
on March 17, 2004
This book fits into my newly discovered genre of graphic novels. How lucky I was to have read this book as one of my first graphic novels. At almost 600 pages, this book may be daunting for the reluctant reader. It may take some extra encouraging to have those students pick up this book. Yet once they do, they will discover one of the best coming of age books written in recent years.
It is a memoir about the author growing up in a conservative, religious family and his experiences and feelings. The book is so honest and full of feelings that it makes your heart break. I think because of the 1st person comic book layout, you're immediately drawn into the story.
This book would be great for reluctant readers who would probably think a big comic book is a cool read. Other students (and adults) would also enjoy it because of its simplicity and intensity that is lacking in many of the other coming of age books out there. I would recommend it to students who have expository writing projects to demonstrate both the different styles of writing and to give an exceptional model of a memoir.
on January 18, 2004
Richard Van Camp's review of "Blankets"
Blankets is not only my pick for graphic novel of the year, but it is an instant literary classic for both world literature and the illustrated novel. The Library Journal has just named Blankets as one of the "Best Books of 2003", and this is the first time they've ever picked a graphic novel for this list: "Crystallizing desire, despair, joy, redemption, and other fleeting emotions with voluptuous lines and a barrage of cross-hatching, Thompson
has produced a triumph for the genre." -- Library Journal
While reading this 582 page epic, I felt joy, anxiety, sickened with humanity, hopelessness, faithless, lost, aroused and praying for everything to be okay for every character in this book. Blankets follows Craig and his little brother, Phil, as children growing up in a small town. I don't want to give the story away as it deserves to be discovered alone, but trust me when I say that anyone who reads this will be moved deeply. There are also so many magical moments in this story-too many to name here and I wouldn't do them justice. Craig Thompson has written the perfect story in both genres with his artwork complimenting his literature and his literature complimenting his art. Reading doesn't get any more magical than this.
You can display Blankets proudly on your bookshelf right next to Frank Miller's Elektra Assassin, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Dave McKean's Cages, Farel Dalrymple's Pop Gun War, David Gilmour's Lost Between Houses, George Pratt's Enemy Ace, and Maureen Medved's The Tracey Fragments. It's that good!
Hands down, this is a sacred work and storytelling at its finest!
Richard Van Camp
Author of The Lesser Blessed
and Angel Wing Splash Pattern
on December 4, 2003
This book gets so much praise, it makes me want to write a few words about it myself. I bought this after reading a lot of positive reviews, and had in mind of giving it away for Christmas present. There has got to be something good about a book that everybody gives best grades, right?
But when I read it, I think maybe it gets all this praise just because it is a graphic novel showing big amition. It is well drawn and very many pages. To people with a big interest in graphic novels, this is of course a big thing. Comics fans probably has been waiting for a book like this to come out. A big, well drawn book with an epic with depth and emotion, suitable to convincing non-belivers about the medium's greatness.
But I want to say, that it does not necessarily appeal to everyone. The story is a bit sentimental and predictable. What does the story tell us? That it is hard growing up, OK. Some people who likes Daniel Clowe's "Ghost World" and may find Thompson's version of teenage angst a bit naïve and puppy eyed in comparison.
This is a pretty nice story, with neat artwork. I'm just trying to point out, that there is room for a lot of different tastes and directions in the art form of graphic novels. Nowadays I think many people doesn't have too much prejudice about comics - the media isn't the important thing, but the content is. Personally I like storys like Adrian Tomine's and Daniel Clowes', artists who may have more in common with film directors like Todd Solondz and Paul Thomas Anderson than with Craig Thompson. I'm not saying Clowes should be the measure to all new comics, but in comparison Thompson's story here reminds me more of some made for TV harmless drama.
What I mean is, just try to forget about the medium, and what you have here is a predictable and sweet, traditional and quite nice story about growing up, that doesn't say anything new unless you haven't read to many stories about growing up.Or, of course, if you're about to grow up yourself. If I wanted to persuade any of my friends that graphic novels are't nessecarily boring, this is actually not my choice of book to give them.
on November 15, 2003
I just finished reading this book while at work and for the last half hour, I have had tears in my eyes while barely supressing the urge to go outside and sob. It's not really tears of sorrow that I feel like shedding after reading this book, but rather from raw emotions recollected from childhood and late adolescence.
From page one, Thompson grabbed my attention with his memories of blanket wars and parental intervention. A gentle smile spread across my face and I often broke into laughter at some hilariously illustrated incident. I'm trying here not to just repeat what everyone else has said about this book, but it's hard not to go off about the fact that he has this method of capturing in a couple of frames what would take pages of narrative in an ordinary novel. I guess what I really appreciated about this book was that he spoke directly to me in my language of a fundamentalist background, coupled with a history of feeling like an outcast. I can relate perfectly to his relationship with Raina, especially when they first meet. My first love happened almost exactly the same way: us both feeling like outcasts, me just kinda standing there against the wall, and then I saw her; all blue eyes and yellow curly hair, and the way she moved towards me (you'll get the picture)......that moment on page 90 is a moment we all feel at some point in our lives. I love how Thompson so delicately sprinkles his philosophy througout the book and how Craig is constantly conflicted about his feelings for Raina. I can SO relate to that. I suppose the best page in the book would have to be page 571...so beautifully illustrated.
The feeling of loss and emptiness that Craig feels are so wonderful because it's almost too painful for me to read this book (although I will read it over and over again) because he walks along this razor edge line of love which produces such overwhelming, unfamiliar emotions. I can't remember feeling such emotions since the times in my life that the novel describes. Have I become that emotionally empty?
I don't want to sound repetitive, but this book gripped me from page one and never let go until, at the end of the book, I was filled with this unbelieveable heart-wrenching beautiful memory of love.
To awaken parts of your soul that you might have forgotten about, maybe you should check out this book.
on November 5, 2003
"Sometimes I lie away awake at night and wonder
Where my life will lead me
Waiting to pass under Sleep's dark and silent gate."
I continue to find the vast majority of graphic novels I read to be without heart. Or perhaps I should say that after reading BLANKETS I understand that the reason I have been a reader unmoved by graphic novels is that they have consistently failed to touch me in the manner that Craig Thompson's 600-page illustrated novel has--page after page after page.
"Sheep: A blanket begins in a faraway place
Where skies are blue and there's lots of space
The nights are cold and we sleep outside
To keep warm and toasty we grow hair on our hide
But when spring comes round the weather is warm
A thick woolly coat loses all of its charm
We're itchy and hot 'till the rancher arrives
To give us each a haircut and brighten up our lives
He grabs a big bag and he gathers the wool
And he stuffs and he crams 'till the bags are full
He throws 'em on the truck 'till it's piled up high
Then he climbs into the driver's seat and says 'Goodbye'
That's the story of Bert's blanket
That's the story of Bert's blanket
That's the story of Bert's blanket" --Sesame Street
Perhaps the size of BLANKETS is one of its big pluses. I wouldn't call the typical comic book a novel; nor do I believe that a comic book becomes worthy of the term "novel" simply because it contains mature themes, explicit images and a hardcover binding. While my wife, the English teacher, would describe what I'm saying in terms of significant character development, plot, theme, and all that literature jargon, I would simply say that a successful "real" novel gives me something to really bite into and leaves me with plenty to think about after I'm done turning the pages. With its captivating blend of text and illustrations, BLANKETS is a novel does that to perfection.
BLANKETS is the semiautobiographical tale of a boy growing up. The story--which covers (blankets?) nearly two decades--includes Craig's brother, parents, school, art, sexuality, religion and religious leaders, Church Camp, First Love, and that Love's extended family. It also contains several blankets (as in the kind you sleep beneath) as well as blankets of snow and some metaphorical blankets.
The action in the story is nicely counterbalanced with the main character's introspection about his self-evolution, interactions, relationships, and religious beliefs.
"Linus: Where's my blanket?"
But, most significantly, what Craig Thompson does to perfection in BLANKETS is to utilize this illustrated format in order to be able to reveal far more with his combination of words and images than he could possibly have done with words alone. Whether it is the drawings telling part of the story as when, for example, we view the series of illustrations in which Craig's hand nervously, anxiously, plays with the curled telephone cord as he tries to "reconnect" with Raina, or whether it is the capability to often have Craig simultaneously saying one thing while thinking another, or the opportunity for the author to transition to extensive dialogue without having to constantly resort to "He said." or "She said," or even the potential of showing Craig's and his brother's drawings rather than having to describe them, I can now really see and understand the potential of writing a novel in this format. I could easily go on and on about other highlights: the power of being able to see those looks passing between Craig and Raina, the joy of being able to watch the bedtime hijinx between the young Craig and his brother, or being able to read an entire story on the face of Raina's father when his discovery leads to contemplation of what has happened in his own life.
BLANKETS is a book that leaves me with warm, cozy memories; one you absolutely need to see (and crawl inside of) yourself.
on September 8, 2003
I have long been a fan of comics, graphic novels, penny dreadfuls, whatever you decide to call them. I've read a lot of exceptional comics; Sandman, Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Watchmen....the list goes on. However, none of thses books, with the possible exception of Maus, touched me on such a personal level. "Blankets" is a masterfully told tale of love and loss, a beautiful story rife with powerful imagery, incredible storytelling and a looming sense of inevetibility. Craig Thompson, on an artistic level, may well be the next Art Spiegelman. Spiegelman has long been the best in my mind, in his inate ability to draw anything. Craig Thompson follows in his footsteps with the incredible art in this heartbreaking book. When "Blankets" first arrived on my doorstep, i had thought the art to be ridiculously cartoony and the writing to be almost trite. That was the first page. After that, i fell into a moving, realistic and wonderfully non-pretentious story that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go even after you've closed the book. Craig's doomed romance with Raina, the failing relationship of her parents, the awkward atmosphere between Craig and Raina's adopted brother Ben, and characters that moved and spoke realistically enough to make the entire world that Craig Thompson tells his story through entirely believable, a spitting image of our own, flaws and all. The other wonderous thing about his world is that his art really works with his characters. He's not one of those artists who draw cartoon people and photorealistic buildings, or vice versa. His world looks like his characters would actually live there. The story was almost too real for the art, however. His conservative christian life was utterly believable, as was his relationship with other people and especially the way they talked. Not like Alan Moore dialogue, like realistic, but more like his people did not ask stupid questions that are all too common in most mainstream comics. Each character had their own voice, and they never lost it throughout. The end of the story honestly made me cry. More than the despair of Maus or the intensely depressing story wraught by Jimmy Corrigan, this story made me cry at the end because the end was not sad. It was hopeful, and said that even after the things that happened, even after events unfolded the way they did, the world did not end. This story alone continued past the pages for me. I saw the miracles Thompson spoke so reverently of, and felt that things would just keep on going beyond the eye of the mind. Easily the best effort made in comic form in memory. BUY THIS BOOK!!