Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"vanishing cave"

Today's recommendation is Craig Thompson's graphic memoir Blankets. I personally think it is one of the best books of the last decade.

I am relatively certain I cannot do it justice on my blog, but I will try. It's frustrating, because I want to write something that will convince you that this is absolutely essential reading, that this is the kind of book that makes you want to get up and hug random people and dance around, that this will be the kind of book for you that it was for me: one you'll stay up all night reading, well past the point (ca. page 300 or so) when your wrists go numb. That you'll watch the sun rise and the people go by with a new appreciation and awe afterward. But I'm not sure my stilted academic writing is still capable of expressing such joy.

So I will just tell you:

Blankets details Craig Thompson's early childhood, adolescence, and struggles with religion. Establishing the motif described by the title, it links disparate experiences, textures, and images to create an intricate and beautiful Gestalt that unifies pain, love, beauty, art, and despair.

Blankets does an excellent and subtle job of situating itself in a very specific time (look at the details: the posters on the walls, the hairstyles) and making a place I've never been come alive. It takes religious fundamentalism away from the caricature many of us associate with it, and presents a critical insider view. The world it describes merely is; it doesn't need to pound you over the head with reminders of PAST or MIDWEST.

Blankets is more than a graphic memoir. It's a cinematically structured journey through a specific time (ca. 1993-1994), a specific place (Michigan), and a specific individual's experience. But more than that, it uses such common motifs and such universal expression to make this coming-of-age story relatable. It's more than a story about rejecting the ideology of one's childhood and family; it's more than a story about first love; it's more than a story about childhood trauma.

Blankets is a story about how disparate elements of an individual's past make them who they are, and allow them to do what they do. A story about how you can let go of beginnings or foundations or negative events, but they still influence you, and sometimes you can achieve the distance necessary to appreciate what they add to your life.

Blankets, I feel, will only add to your life. So that is why it is today's recommendation.


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