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Blankets, Craig Thompson

2010/03/29

Do you ever have those moments where you read a book, hear a song, watch a scene, or see a picture that draws you in, washes over you, and leaves you wondering what just happened? Something that pulls at you, makes it difficult to swallow, brings tears to your eyes, sends a little shiver down your spine, and you don’t even really know why? It doesn’t even have to be “good” art per se, but for some reason it resonates just right with your own frequency. It’s like a bit like falling in love — that dizzy, giddy feeling of realizing that someone, maybe just a little, understands you, the real you.

Most often I find this in books: Elizabeth Wein’s “The Winter Prince,” Robin McKinley’s “Deerskin,” Madeleine L’Engle’s “Ring of Endless Light,” Juliet Marillier’s “Wolfskin;” sometimes with songs: Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep,” Howard Shore’s “Breaking of the Fellowship,” the Fray’s “Happiness,” among others. When I find them, I want to read or listen to them over and over; it’s so good that I can’t help wanting to repeat that first “oomph” where it reaches in and grabs my heartstrings. It’s part of the reason why I am constantly reading Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” At the same time there is a little trepidation at leaving them — perhaps the magic of them will disappear after having marred their memory with some other novel or song. And it’s true — you come back to them a different person each time. And sometimes it does fade after time — the words or melodies are no longer exactly what you need now, because they were what you needed then.

Blankets, by Craig Thompson, is one of those books. It’s a surreal feeling to read a book and to realize as you are reading it that it is going to be something that will sink into your skin and dwell with you and quite possibly have a significant impact on who you are, how you think about things, why you think about things. “Blankets” is a five hundred eighty-two graphic novel, semi-autobiographical, written by a young man raised in a small mid-western town by a strict Christian family. It chronicles episodes from his childhood — he is a scrawny, sensitive, artistic child with a younger brother and a penchant for drawing which his parents are highly critical of — and his adolescence: dawning awareness of the hypocrisy amongst his faith-professing peers, scattered ideas of how to reconcile his love for art and the pressure to enter the ministry, an unprecedented long-distance friendship with a girl he meets at church camp. All of it is lushly, starkly, horribly, beautifully, stunningly illustrated in black and white drawings.

Many in the demographic to which it is pushed now — the young adult/senior high school student — are not ready for this book. It is painfully honest, exposing the falseness and crudeness that Craig sees and hears, the horrors of childhood punishment and abuse, the ecstasy and thrills of his relationship with Raina, the preconceived ideas and ugly assumptions expressed by the supposedly pious, the doubts and fears and questions of faith.

Highly recommended.

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