Craig Thompson - Blankets - 10

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Craig Thompson - Blankets - 10

Postby ChoChiyo » Thu Apr 07, 2005 11:19 am

Blankets

I purchased the graphic novel Blankets because I thought the students in my newly minted Graphic Literature class would be able to relate to the coming-of-age struggles of young Craig Thompson. An autobiographical novel, it chronicles cartoonist Craig Thompson's life from age 10 (or so) to approximately his mid twenties. As it turns out, I was the one relating to the story in almost every aspect.

Raised by well-meaning, but fanatically religious parents to think that everything that "doesn't glorify God" is a sin, Craig anguishes over his love of drawing. Is drawing a sin? he wonders. What if I do religious comics--ones that will win people to Christ? Will it be okay then?

I understood his grief and resignation when he (at 17) dumped the boxes containing his portfolios of drawings into the burn barrel and watched them burn, sacrificing what he loved to a jealous God. I understood his guilt for loving his art so much.

One of the saddest bits of the story is when Craig, aged about ten, is taking his first shower--after a rather intense battle with his little brother Phil. "I scrubbed and scrubbed," he said, "but still I could feel the SIN on my body." How sad for a little child to have been indoctrinated with such a dark and hopeless view.

Cursed with an intelligent, inquiring mind, he began to question the immutable nature of scripture as he grew old enough to examine the concordance of his Bible and understand that various parts had been added over time...that the Hebrew vocabulary was "lifted from different points in the language's history."

Like me, Craig had been taught that "the words of the Bible came straight from the mouth of God." Learning that they had been "modified by generations of scribes and watered down with various translations" caused him to question the veracity of the Bible and the whole concept of who and what God is.

Eventually, he stopped going to church altogether--as I have done--because it is easier to put it out of your head than it is to agonize over it and struggle to make all the mismatched pieces fit together.

Of course, there is much more to this story than Craig's religious jouney, some of which I identify with, some of which I do not. It chronicles his outcast state at school--how others bully him because he is so small and scrawny for his age, his loneliness, his relationship with his brother Phil--and his guilt at not protecting Phil from their sexually abusive teenage (male) babysitter, his first romance with a girl he met at Bible Camp, his feelings of guilt at his first stirrings of sexuality, and his uncertainty about a future career.

Though there is a lot of sadness and descriptions of Craig's hopelessness and frustration in this novel, it ends on a hopeful note. I finished the book feeling as though my own experiences had been validated. Knowing that another person had been through similar struggles with his faith was comforting. I had a strong urge to seek out Craig Thompson's Official Site, find his email address, and write him a long letter about the many ways Blankets resonated with me, and how it affirmed and comforted me, but the urge passed. Instead, I write them here, and hope that the rest of Craig Thompson's life is happier and more fulfilling than his childhood was.
I am a poor, wayfaring stranger
Wandering through this world of woe
But there's no sickness, no fear or danger
In that bright land
To which I go
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ChoChiyo
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