BOOK REVIEW: Blankets by Craig Thompson

BOOK REVIEW: Blankets by Craig Thompson

Faber & Faber
November 2017
Paperback, $39.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Graphic Novel / Coming of Age

8/10

Wrapped in the snowfall of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two young lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faithBlankets is a profound and utterly beautiful work. 

 

This is the story of the excitement and imagination of childhood.

Full of curiosity and delight, we’d run downstairs to tell our parents.
“Flying sparks!”
“Alive!”
“Fireflies?”
“Glowing! Spinning!”
“Tinkerbell?”
“Alive! Sparks!”
And they’d explain to us…
“Those aren’t fairies. They’re static electricity – – like laundry when it comes out of the dryer.”
“Not Tinkerbell?”
When we returned to bed, the sprites were gone.

The emotions that are experienced as children and young adults, dwelling on one’s own thoughts, trying to make sense of the world.

As a child, I thought that life was the most horrible world anyone could ever live in, and that there HAD to be something better.

The things that happen at the hands of adults who are meant to be caregivers, and the way that certain types of punishment might linger in memories well into adulthood.

“It’s completely DARK… and all around you are the sounds of other people screaming and MOANING.”
“No gasp NO!”
“But worst of all, you can’t find these people. You’re separated forever.”
“NO DADDY NO!”
“And you can HEAR them… but you can’t TALK to them…”
Please, Daddy.”
“…or COMMUNICATE…”
“Daddy, I’ll be good.”
“…or CONSOLE each other in your pain.”
“AAARGH! SPIDERS ALL OVER ME!”

Certain things are so horrible they’re beyond discussing, but are here revealed (through words and text) in such a way that is both subtle and perfectly clear all at once.

“Hey, I’ve got a really FUNNY JOKE. So funny, I can only tell it to you one at a time. You wait here while I go tell Craig the JOKE.”
“That’s taking a while. It must be really funny.”
“HA HA HA.”
“heh heh.”
“That was a FUNNY JOKE, wasn’t it?”
“uh, yeah… heh heh.”
“MY TURN! MY TURN!”
“YUP. It’s YOUR turn… but first we need to go to the other room.”
“It must be REALLY funny, huh?”

Growing up in a strictly religious household.

She forced us to take a shower, and it was the first time either of us had taken a shower.
It’d been exclusively BATHS up to that point.
Perhaps our parents feared we’d be knocked off our feet by he force of the stream, or mistakedly DROWN ourselves as the water trickled down our faces. 
Either way, one’s first shower is a RITE of PASSAGE — an initiation into adulthood, only in the context, it was moreso a BAPTISM — a vain attempt to cleanse away our SHAME.
I scrubbed and scrubbed, but still I could feel the sin on my body.

Attending a religious school, where you are constantly berated into “making the right choice” (of which there is only one).

“Craig, I’d highly advise… That is, I WARN you flat outright NOT to go to art school. My brother went to art school, and they made him ‘draw from life,’ you know.”
“Oh?”
“Yah, you know, he had to draw PEOPLE, but they… uh… didn’t have any clothes on. It was like running right into the arms of TEMPTATION. Soon, he couldn’t get enough NAKED people, so he got addicted to PORNOGRAPHY — And then, that wasn’t enough either… which led — uh… I’m sorry. — which led to the next logical step.”
‘K-k-killing people?”
“HOMOSEXUALITY.”
“Oh… How tragic.”

The way that connections found in this time of tumult and hormones can feel so much more important and earth-shattering, because we finally feel like we fit somewhere.

Raina was the first to write after church camp, and her letter renewed my faith in the notion of making marks on paper.
Her words were lonely and lovely and comforting and they cried for response.
Thus, I found my muse.

 

This is the kind of book in which not very much happens in terms of plot, but so, so much happens in terms of understanding, realisation, and emotion.

While the plot of the story is rather simple, covering the coming of age process, the uncertainty that comes with it, sibling rivalry, and young love, it would be impossible to list all the varying emotions and thoughts that are explored in this graphic novel, and there are bound to be elements that certain readers will relate to more keenly than others. 

This is not an overly uplifting graphic novel, but it is the kind of story that will resonate, and will take readers back to elements of their own childhood and teenage years, while reading from the comfortable place of having been through these situations and come out the other side.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Blankets by Craig Thompson

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