Blankets by Craig Thompson

IMG_3322 Blankets by Craig Thompson

2003. 582 pages.

I flew through Blankets last night.  I’d finish one chapter and a thought would flit through my head that this may be a good stopping point, but then somehow the page would turn and I’d be moving on.

Blankets is not the very first graphic novel that I’ve read.  A few years ago, I was at my sister’s and her husband had some graphic novels checked out of the library.  I read one of them – don’t remember what it was called – and it was about spies, I think?  but though it wasn’t terrible, the reading experience didn’t make me want to continue reading graphic novels.

Then an online friend of mine from the rottentomatoes forum recommended Blankets and I was intrigued by a graphic novel that was about regular people.   I figured this would be a better entry point to the graphic novel genre.  And it was.

I like the memoir genre and even took a class on reading and writing memoirs in college.  Blankets is essentially a graphic novel memoir, focusing on his struggles with the Christian church and belief, his relationship with his younger brother, and most heavily, on his first love, Raina.  The central event of the book is when the teenage Craig goes from Wisconsin to Upper Peninsula Michigan to stay two weeks with Raina and her family.

My experience of growing up in conservative Christianity was more positive than Craig Thompson’s, but I could still identify with some of his experiences, including his dislike of church snow camp.  I never had a teenage love like Craig did with Raina.  But whether my experience was similar or not, the novel made me feel the emotions of it all: loneliness, shame, exhilaration, contentment.  The drawings and dialogue capture the exquisite pain and joy of the human experience.  If that sounds grandiose to say, so be it.

I don’t think Blankets is perfect.  There is no real unity to the novel.  All the different parts don’t gel together into one piece.  Also, some of the philosophizing was uninteresting, like this one part where the shadows in the cave analogy is interspersed with Craig’s adjustment to being back from his trip to Raina’s.  It didn’t quite work.

It’s possible that the piecework nature of the novel could be defended by saying it’s similar to the handmade quilt that is a focal point in the story.  It’s a patchwork affair, squares of life stitched together.  And because that’s such a pretty metaphor for the book’s structure, I can forgive the seeming lack of structural unity.

My friend from rottentomatoes had recommended more graphic novels to me after I told him I’d be reading Blankets.  The recommendations include the well-known Maus and others called Too Cool to Be Forgotten and Shortcomings.  I welcome other graphic novel suggestions.


Filed under Graphic Novels, Memoir and Personal Essays

6 responses to “Blankets by Craig Thompson

  1. I have a copy of Blankets, but haven’t read it yet. I keep being put off by the length, so it is great to know that you flew through it.

    My favourite graphic novel is Fun Home, but it is sexually explicit, so beware if you don’t like that sort of thing.

    I’ve also just finished Persepolis, which was good, but I’d describe it as important rather than entertaining.

    Great review!

    • Thanks for the recommendations! Persepolis was already on my radar but I hadn’t heard of Fun Home. I’ll have to look into it.

      • Jason

        Persepolis is also on my list of books to read. I read The Watchmen last year, and although it was enjoyable, I was underwhelmed; I do have several other friends who enjoyed it, though.

  2. Welcome to the blogosphere, Christy – you’ve made yourself a comfy little place here that looks good and I feel like I want to visit!
    Blankets looks great – I haven’t stepped out into the graphic novel world too often but this one goes on my ever-increasing list, even though you didn’t think it was perfect 🙂


    • Ack! WordPress had classified your comment as spam for whatever reason, Aimee, and I did not notice until today. Thanks for the welcome and sorry for the delay in response!

  3. I enjoyed Blankets, but two graphic novels that I liked even more were Persepolis and American Born Chinese. Persepolis is heavier, and I would agree with Jackie that it’s important rather than entertaining, but I really loved it. American Born Chinese is more a fable than a novel, but it’s very beautifully drawn and sort of hilarious. I hope you do try more graphic novels in the future – I’m just getting into them this year, and they are a wonderful change of pace from traditional novels.

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