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.
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