Blankets - Craig Thompson

This is by far the heftiest graphic novel I've ever read, possibly the largest, period. The cover calls it "an illustrated novel," and it's not far from the truth—it's close to 600 pages and looks about the size of one of the later Harry Potter books. It's a semi-autobiographical story about growing up—sharing a bed with his kid brother, his first love, his religious convictions and then the loss of them. Like his previous book Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Blankets is bittersweet, and addresses many of the same themes: friendship and goodbyes. But it's also much more personal—it's hard to say how much or what has been fictionalized—perhaps "dramatized" is a better word.

His illustrations depict perfectly his own states of mind, from images of Hell and Heaven during Sunday school to visions of Raina as his muse. He struggles with new passions as they conflict with old values—but in the end, neither seems to win out. It's hard to say what he's really left with in the end, which is a shame compared to all the beauty he saw earlier. The picture he paints of his church is perhaps a sad-but-true scenario, in which he's told that drawing is the worst sort of idleness and escapism. His Sunday school teacher dismisses his passion scornfully: "How can you praise God with DRAWINGS?" You can't help but wonder what Craig's story would have been in a different context.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 18, 2004