Blankets – Craig Thompson

I do always like to thank the people that have put me in the direction of a book that I have gone out and found and then really enjoyed. In  the case of ‘Blankets’ by Craig Thompson I would have to list most of the book blogosphere because I have seen this here there and everywhere and everyone has loved it. I will admit that I wasn’t sure it would be my kind of thing, I don’t know why but somewhere the idea that graphic novels aren’t proper novels has been placed. Thank goodness for libraries and being able to take a risk with a book now and again, especially one which breaks your reading impasse, as now that prejudice has been erased once and for all.

‘Blankets’ is a graphic novel but it also feels like a fully built novel. I am not saying that I don’t think the two can co-exist but it’s rare when they have this effect on me personally. There are two strands running through ‘Blankets’. The first is the tale of two brothers Craig and Phil and their childhood in the strict, highly religious and rather scary family home in Wisconsin, the second of two young people falling in love for the very first time. In a way it’s like two separate coming of age (a subject I am not normally a fan of) events and times in one persons formulative years.

What impressed me first of all was how Thompson manages to interweave these two strands in a way that isn’t confusing. He doesn’t need to insert ‘flashback’ or ‘present’ and ‘past’ the pictures paint it all clearly (excuse the poor terminology) and what illustrations these are. I definitely wasn’t expecting to have an emotional connection with this book. I thought I would be entertained and pick it up now and again. Instead I read it in three sittings, I was hooked. The pictures convey, as do the choice wordings throughout, the emotions of both growing up in the severity that Craig does and how he feels when love first hits.

The second thing that impressed me was how Craig covers a lot of modern subjects that are quite tough just in the written form (not that I am saying one medium is better than the other). Through ‘Blankets’ Thompson encapsulates a world which at varying points features mental and physical disabilities, religion, sexuality, child abuse, depression, divorce, families and most of all love.

It really has left me wondering if you can call a graphic novel epic, if so then ‘Blankets’ is indeed a modern epic. I would be surprised, but pleasantly so, if there were any graphic novels that can better this on both artistic and emotional levels. 9/10

I am obviously in an adventurous mood because not long after I read this I decided to try some ‘steampunk’ another genre that I have been a little dubious about. You will have to wait a little while to see my thoughts on that specific genre. Have there been any genres that you were, possibly for no reason, adamant that you wouldn’t love and then tried and did? Can you remember the titles? Did you ever look back? Can any of you recommend any other stupendous graphic novels to keep me fixed?


Filed under Books of 2010, Craig Thompson, Graphic Novels, Review, Top Shelf Productions

19 responses to “Blankets – Craig Thompson

  1. Lu

    So glad you gave Blankets a chance. It’s no secret that I absolutely loved it and consider it to be one of the best books I read this year.

  2. I want to read this so much! I’m normally not a fan of ‘graphic novels’, but Claire’s review (kissacloud) and Gavin’s review (Page247) and now yours have sealed the deal. Now I just need to get my hands on a copy. here I come!

  3. bookgazing

    OMG Simon what steampunk are you reading?! Tell us all sooooon!

  4. So glad that you enjoyed this, Simon! I have only really discovered graphic novels for myself in the last couple of years and am so glad I have (and no longer judge them as “easy” reads); I’d far prefer to read Craig Thompson’s memoirs in this form than all prose and think the form really lends itself to writing memoirs. I thought Blankets was a beautiful read and is most definitely a novel but simply in a different form than the standard novels offered; I agree that some subjects can be dealt with better (sometimes with more emotional resonance and yet also less damaging, in a sense, than prose) when presented visually.

    Recommendations: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman; French Milk by Lucy Knisley; anything by Marjane Satrapi (I’ve reviewed all of these and one Satrapi so far on my blog if you’d like further details).

    • I dont think I ever thought they were easy reads I just dont think I thought they were ‘me’ mind you as time goes on I am less and less sure that I know what that is as I get proved more and more wrong.

      I dont know if I like Satrapi or not and I have tried, hmmm. Thanks for all the recommendations though – I like the idea of French Milk just from the title.

  5. I was the same way Simon. I just had no interest in graphic novels, but this year I was determined to remedy that, and I have fallen in love. Take a good story, and provide mind-blowing visuals, and the experience is other-worldly. Definitely Fun Home is a good one, Maus, and Pyongyang. I don’t know if you are a Stephen King/The Stand fan either, but they are releasing a series of six or seven books depicting The Stand, and they are freaking fabulous.

  6. Matt Cresswell

    Really glad you liked it! It’s an absolutely fantastic book, and a bit of a masterclass in using the comic form to your advantage. Would definitely also recommend Funhome by Alison Bechdel which a few other people have mentioned.

    Although something I’ve just noticed as I’m thinking through other books like this: a huge majority of the “worthy” graphic novels (Blankets, Black Hole, Fun Home, Maus…) are all in black and white–must be the comics industry’s shortcut to say “this is REAL literature”.

    • Not only are all of those in black and white, Matt, but all are memoirs/autobiographical (I haven’t read Black Hole but apparently that is too).

      • Matt Cresswell

        Aha! Yes, that much more obvious comparison completely passed me by! (Persepolis fits into that mold too.) It could be coincidence, but I’d like to imagine its because the writers felt like monochrome was a more evocative way of capturing the feeling of memory.

    • Its brilliant Matt. I totally agree with you about your thoughts on the masterclass aspect, people should take note (not mimic) this book and all it achieves.

      I hadnt thought of black and white vs colour… interesting!!

  7. I second recommendations for Fun Home, Maus, and Persepolis.

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