I still haven’t posted my list of ‘forty books to read by the time I am forty’ yet, however if I had (well until now as I have read it) you would have seen ‘Ghost World’ by Daniel Clowes firmly placed on this list. Graphic novels are really something I have only started to truly appreciate in the last few years but Daniel Clowes ‘Ghost World’ is one of the cult graphic novels that everyone recommends I read, along with ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman. So when I spotted ‘Ghost World’ at the library I decided I should give it a whirl.
‘Ghost World’ is a graphic novel centring on two best friends, Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer, who are going through their teenage years together in a small town where nothing really happens, well unless you are Enid of Becky. With their teenage cynical, nonchalant attitude they seem to somehow sense a mystery about everyone despite acting like they don’t care. Regulars at their diner become, through the girls imaginations, perverts, incestuous siblings, Satanist cult leaders and serial killers. It’s a series of chronicles of points in their friendship, originally a series in Clowes comic book series ‘Eightball’, which makes the whole of this graphic novel.
I have to admit that I am rather torn on ‘Ghost World’. Part of me thought that the book was brilliant. I really enjoyed the dark humour of the girls and how they creates such dark and wicked pasts for everyone they knew, whether they liked them or hated them, as it appealed to my sense of humour. I also really liked the dynamic between the girls which Clowes creates and the way in which he looks at how their friendship alters as their hormones do. Clowes creates a very believable relationship between them as boys, other friendships and college threaten to tear them apart. Is it patronising to say I thought this was particularly well done as Clowes is not and, as far as I know, has never been a teenage girl.
So where did it go wrong? Well overall it didn’t. I enjoyed reading ‘Ghost World’ in a single hour long sitting. The problem was as soon as I put it down after finishing it my feeling was ‘well that was ok then’ yet really, especially after all the hype from people who know graphic novels and comic books. I was expecting the book to come to life more as other graphic novels I have read in the past have like ‘Fun Home’ or ‘Blankets’. This did feel like a comic, rather than a fully formed graphic novel. That isn’t meant to be a slight as I love reading Batman comics etc, I just didn’t think ‘Ghost World’ had the depth I was expecting and hoped for, the more I thought about it the more it seemed a tale of two rather angry girls who cynically saw the worst in everyone and liked to swear a lot, gossip and talk about sex.
I have to admit that I wanted more from ‘Ghost World’ but (before I get hate mail from its cult audience) that isn’t to say it was a letdown or a disappointing read for me overall. I enjoyed the time I spent with Enid and Becky, I liked the friendship they had and the world and relationships that Clowes created around it. It was a nice escapist read but it did feel more comic like to me than a fully formed graphic novel overall.
I know ‘Ghost World’ has a huge cult fan base, if any of you read this blog can you explain what I might have been missing? Also if you know of some corking graphic novels I have most probably missed out on then do give me your recommendations. I need to get my hands on ‘Maus’ next I think.