erasing clouds

Book Review: Blankets by Craig Thompson

by anna battista

Think about your childhood. Think about all the times you tortured your younger siblings or about all the times you went to Sunday school and never heard what your teacher was saying about Jesus because you were constantly dreaming about a parallel universe in which the drawings you made took a life on their own. Think also about all the times your parents inflicted their own beliefs on you, imposing you to go to church or sending you to Christian Christmas camp. This is what Craig Thompson's new graphic novel, Blankets (Top Shelf Productions) is basically made of, episodes from the author's childhood, adventures from his life as a teenager who finds love for the first time and eventually grows up.

Winner of the Harvey Award for Best New Talent with his first work Good-bye, Chunky Rice (1999, Top Shelf Productions), a parable about friendship and growing up with cutesy animals as main characters, Thompson has now created in Blankets" a 592 page graphic novel, a sort of autobiography with basically the same theme of his first graphic novel, but this time with humans as main characters.

Divided into nine chapters that include episodes about a young Craig sharing his bed with his younger brother, getting obsessed about the Bible and the Ecclesiastes, falling in love with sweet and troubled Raina, being bullied at school or at the infamous Christian camp where he is sent every year, and finally growing up, leaving his parents and their faith behind. One of the blankets of the title is the one Craig is given by Raina, another blanket is created by the snow which constantly falls over the characters and in the world they live in, hiding its misery, or hiding the characters from the readers' eyes, but the title can be also a reference to the invisible blankets Craig puts up against a world he cannot understand or in which he cannot fit.

Written in very poetic language ("How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of movement…no matter how temporary…") and defined by comics writer and author Neil Gaiman as a "moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest" graphic novel, the most important "since Jimmy Corrigan", Craig Thompson's Blankets is a beautifully tender and intimate work of art, a page turner drawn in black and white but hiding behind each frame and each character the wide range of colours of life itself.

Issue 17, November 2003

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