Monday, 16 January 2012

Books: Blankets


by Craig Thompson


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

True story: this middle-aged woman who didn't speak very good English turned up at one of the Islington Comic Forum meetings - she came in - sat down - and looked around. I went over to say hi and she started gesturing at all the books on the table: "What is all this?" she said. "Is this a joke? These things - these are for children - no? Is this a joke? Why you read this? What is this?" ... I tried my best to explain: "Well. Yeah. Comics can be for children - but most of the ones we've got here - well - adults can read them too."

She didn't look convinced.

So - I looked around and saw a copy of Blankets sitting near us (it's hard to miss - it's a very thick looking book - in fact I think "tome" might be a more appropriate word - but whatever) - I reached out for it and brought it over. "Here," I said "why don't you try reading this and see what you think?"

She still didn't look convinced.

But I put it in front of her - and then to give her some space I walked around and spoke to some other people ("What Grant Morrison have you read then?" and all that).

Five minutes I returned to see how she was getting on. "So - what do you think?"

Startled she stopped reading and looked up at me and then nodded very slowly (not one word of a lie): "Yes." she said "This is really good. I understand now. "  

So - yeah - Blankets. One of the most well received comic books of recent years ("...more poem than story...") this is a comic that will bind you in it's spell of first love, romance and loss. My first draft of this was just the word "beautiful" repeated 100 times and (sorry) but I don't know if this revision is going to be any less mawkish - but hell - have you ever tried to explain why you love someone without sounding like a total sappy jellyfish?

With every line and word and empty space perfectly pitched to make your insides vibrate and your heart smash into tiny pieces: feels less like a book and more like someone whispering in your ear. If most other comic books (and I don't mean this in a bad way) feel like bands playing rock and roll then Blankets is a confessional singer-songwriter armed with an acoustic guitar, fragile voice and softly sung lyrics that feel as raw and exposed as it's possible to get without simply ripping open your heart. Sample Amazon review (that I just have to share): "All I will say is that my Mother, who never reads comics or graphic novels, was moved to tears several times whilst reading Blankets after I recommended it to her. Powerful stuff that is heartwarming, endearing, funny and beautiful."

I tried to get my flatmate (the one I'm always trying to get to read comics but is often too busy reading 'proper novels') to read Blankets and gave him a copy that then spent a couple of weeks (or more) sitting on his bedside table. And after all that he eventually gave it back to me - unread. "I read what you wrote about it on your blog and it kind of put me off" he said. So in response to that: ok - yeah. This is a book that deals with a lot of mushy stuff and yeah it's emotional hardcore and all the rest - but goddamn it - it's so perfectly realised that not falling in love with it would be like not feeling your heart ache watching a Pixar film (and that's something that's just not humanly possible). Also: yeah - it has kids peeing on each other - so it's not all  holier than thou.

Basically: just read it. You can thank me later.

Links: Comics Journal Interview with Craig Thompson.

Further reading: HabibiFun Home, Cages, Persepolis, Black HoleScott PilgrimLost at Sea, Jar of Fools, Blue PillsJimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth.

All comments welcome.

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