Guest review: Blankets, Craig Thompson

That’s right, everyone!  My puppy voice paid off!  My mumsy has agreed to review Blankets here guestily.  I am hoping that she will find she loves doing guest reviews and will subsequently write about some of the cool and interesting books she read when she was getting her master’s degree in pastoral theology.  She has many books about women in the Bible and feminism in Catholicism and like that, and I would slap a Women Unbound label on the reviews she would write of them, and then I would pretend they counted towards my totals.  Because I have been shamefully neglecting that challenge this month.

So, without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeere’s Mumsy!

Blankets, Craig Thompson
(a review by Jenny’s lovely mum)

First, a somewhat shaming confession:  when I was a kid, I would deliberately make friends with kids whose parents would spring for comic books.  I was a big reader anyway, anything from “Little Women” to the back of the Cap’n Crunch box, but I was a truly impassioned comic books fan.  So the graphic novel format is already close to my heart.

“Blankets” is Craig Thompson’s memoir of his childhood in an intensely religious, rigidly fundamentalist home.  Wedged between his family and community’s punitive, authoritarian God and his own compelling need to draw and write, young Craig is a  loner and a misfit who wants desperately to  find a way to please God while maintaining some vestige of inner integrity.  Some of this is painful to read – Thompson is very, very good at drawing emotional turmoil, and  the first episode of this novel was so heart-wrenching that I wasn’t sure I could continue reading.

But then, oh then, in his senior year of high school, he meets Raina at church camp.

And that is where Blankets moves from being an interesting memoir to being the most moving story of first love that I have ever read.  Thompson has a true artist’s gift for total recall, and he has not forgotten one beat of his heart from that year: his drawings of his two weeks at Raina’s house seem to actually shimmer with passion.  Wielding the graphic novel format with the skill of a master, Thompson never has to use more that the simplest prose to convey sweeping, transcendent emotion.  Craig’s love for Raina is his first genuine experience of the divine – the experience he so longed for, and never found, in church – and he is able to convey this with absolute simplicity and overwhelming tenderness.

I love memoirs, but my one objection to them has always been that I sometimes cringe when I imagine what the publication of the memoir did to the relationships of the author with his significant others.  (I once heard an author say that when you lived with a writer, you always knew there was an assassin in the family.)  So kudos to Thompson for respecting the privacy of both family and friends, while penning a memoir so nakedly open that one is shaken at the end by how much he revealed of his inner life.  And more than kudos to Thompson for using his beautiful drawings so brilliantly, often conveying in a single panel what could not have been expressed in a thousand words.  The two panels in which his parents express their deep pride in their grown son, while remaining utterly oblivious to the man he really is, are truly impressive.

Other reviews:

things mean a lot
The Zen Leaf
Regular Rumination
A Life in Books
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On
Book Addiction
Melody’s Reading Corner
Rhapsody in Books
A Good Stopping Point
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Shelf Love
Book Lust
Bart’s Bookshelf
One Swede Read
Reading Rants!
Should Be Reading
So Many Books
1 More Chapter
Experiments in Reading
One Literature Nut

Phew!  That was many! Let me know if I missed yours.

16 thoughts on “Guest review: Blankets, Craig Thompson

  1. Great review, Mumsy! Please come back again! I was going to say just the same thing as Amanda about love and the divine – wonderful insight. I find coming of age memoirs detailing the experiences of those growing up in religious households really interesting. As the sole Christian in my family, and coming to religion in my late teens, I often wonder whether I would have the relationship with God I do now if I had been brought up in a Christian household and had it rammed down my throat rather than being free to choose it for myself.

  2. I love the graphic novel format, and you make this one sound so very good.

    There is an art to the memoir; adding enough without it being too much can be difficult, but it sounds like he pulled it off.

  3. Do we get to call you Mumsy too? That seems a little presumptuous, but “Jenny’s mom” sounds disrespectful, somehow.

    Anyway, wholehearted agreement on Blankets! Until now I never stopped to wonder what the real-life Raina must have thought of the book.

  4. Great review!
    When I first picked up Blankets, I didn’t know it’s a thick book, but it’s definitely a well-worth one!!! Can’t wait to read the rest by Craig Thompson!

  5. Aw! I love that your mom did a guest review. That’s awesome. I also loved Blankets and, after reading it, I really wanted to find out how Thompson’s family and Reina reacted after reading it. Unfortunately Thompson has had no contact with Reina, but the drawings of her were based more on his current girlfriend (who is now his fiance/wife, I believe) than on what Reina actually looked like. He doesn’t even know if she read it! His parents, however, reacted really strongly against the book at first. They were shocked that he would be willing to share all that information with the world and were still upset that he was no longer religious. They have since come around somewhat.

    I wish I knew where the interview was that I learned all of this from, but I’m not sure!

  6. How great was that? I love the line about writers being assassins in their families. I’m going to tell that one to my menfolk when they get in from school/work. They will agree.

  7. Awww! Your mom wrote a review, I love that!

    And I really, really want to read this book. I’ve heard so many good things about it – I think *I* need to deliberately make friends with people who are willing to buy graphic novels.

  8. Aww, y’all are so nice. And I KNEW you would be – that was the real reason I wrote the review (although the puppy-voice is truly maddening). Of course you can call me Mumsy…in fact, I’m considering a legal name change.

    Lu, that is fascinating about the reactions of the family…I did wonder about his parents, because what I have observed in very religious families is that loss of faith in the child often seems to be more painful to the parents than loss of love, trust or intimacy. Strange.

    Booksnob, the subject of adult faith vs. childhood faith is SO fascinating to me. Thompson was brilliant at portraying young Craig’s bewilderment and confusion at the contrast between “church talk” of a loving God and the casual coldness and cruelties of the true believers. With the graphic novel format, we can see as the child Craig sees, and also as the adult observers who know he will never be able to take this “faith” – this concrete and magical way of thinking – into adulthood.

    And Clover, yes, of course you are right. I cleverly gave birth to people who are willing to buy graphic novels. Bwaaahahaha.

  9. What a lovely review! This is probably the most moving account of first love I have ever read too. (What am I saying, “probably”? It is, period.) And I agree, the art conveys this passion and tenderness for Raina so powerfully. I now want to go hug my copy of the book 😛

  10. Wow – terrific review. One sentence really stood out for me: “he has not forgotten one beat of his heart from that year” – I am SO looking forward to reading this. I was actually loaned this book from a mom in my bookclub who had seen that I listed Blankets on my goodreads tbr but then she had to take it back before I could get to it! Now I’m so sad I didn’t devour it immediately. The reason she had to take it back was because her son was writing a huge project on it for English class and had to take it in to his teacher to *prove* it was a book (GRRrrrrrr – so frustrating; the talk at club was not favorable on this mean teacher.) I’m still waiting to find out how that all went. I’ll be forwarding this post to them, too. I know my friend will love it.

    YEA MUMSY! more, please.

  11. i had no idea this was also a standard novel.

    i picked up the graphic novel years back and was a bit overwhelmed by how excellent it was. had trouble telling people what i liked about it as it was very impacting in that format.

    will have to pick this up and read them back to back!

  12. Pingback: Blankets « Care's Online Book Club

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