Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth - Chris Ware

I think by now everyone knows how much I enjoy the occasional Graphic Novel.  I rarely buy them, but my library has a great selection.  I just have to make an effort to remember to order them when I am in need of a boost.

At some point, somebody (major apologies, I don't remember who) reviewed a Chris Ware GN, and it tickled my memory of a time when my sister had recommended him also.  So here we are...

Synopsis:  Jimmy Corrigan is a sad, lonely middle-aged man who has a dead-end job, an overbearing mother, and no social life to speak of.  His endless days of imagining another, more exciting life snap into sharp focus when he receives a letter and an airplane ticket from his long-lost father, who left Jimmy and his mother decades ago.  Jimmy's active imagination tries to grasp the possibilities.  

Expectations are always a slippery slope, and what transpires ends up being an awkward, bizarre and even enlightening experience.  

There are also jarring detours back in time, exploring the lives of Jimmy's Grandfather and abusive Great-Grandfather during the time when Chicago was preparing for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.  We also get to take a closer look at Jimmy's childhood, his sad life as a child of divorce, and his fantasy life as the "smartest kid on Earth".  

Thought to be autobiographical in nature, this Graphic Novel, compiled from a serialized feature, defies all norms in the genre.  Many pages are devoid of text, have tiny pictures and diagrams, and there are strange motifs peppered throughout (horses, birds, a robot, a suicidal superhero), requiring a bit more mental muscle than a casual look-see.

My thoughts:  I do appreciate that this book has won many awards and is adored by the critics.  I'm not surprised.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  But I'm not sure I'd want to re-read it.  I finished this tome scratching my head.

The novel is DARK.  And highly annoying in many ways.  Ware includes nuances in Jimmy, like nervous twitching and sniffing, in so many frames, that I felt like he was sitting in front of me fidgeting.  I wanted to throw the book and scream STOP SNIFFING!!!  BLOW YOUR NOSE!!!  Is this genius?  Perhaps.  But it made me edgy.  Plus Jimmy is sad and pathetic.  It made me feel bad.  Worse than, let's say, the Maus books about the Holocaust.  Just saying.  

I also had an extremely hard time reading it...physically.  I just got prescription, progressive glasses so my close-up vision is top notch.  I still couldn't see some of the words.  I really required a magnifying glass for some of it, something I do not have.  It required so much effort on some pages, it wore me out.  

The flashbacks were also very sudden, and for awhile I was confused about what the HELL was going on.  I eventually figured it out (peeked at a few reviews) but for awhile there I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  I was totally lost.

I must say that I enjoyed the sections about the Chicago Exposition.  That is a time in history that I find fascinating, and Ware included many details through the eyes of Jimmy's Grandfather.  

All that said, I'll probably never forget this book.  I'm not sure what all this means, but hopefully I've given you enough information to determine if you want to take a stab.  Good luck!

3 out of 5 stars



rhapsodyinbooks said...

I swear every graphic novel I have picked up has been dark, so now I avoid them like the plague!

caite said...

I have never read a graphic novel..and not sure this is the one to start with. Dark and confused, not good.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

This has been on my shelf for a long time. For some reason it has never appealed to me as much as other GNs, but I still want to read it.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like an interesting concept but reading it sounds like too much work to me.

Zibilee said...

I laughed when you related your experiences of watching him fidget and not blow his nose, but like Kathy says, it seems like this one is a lot of work, and highly confusing. It's not something that I think I would enjoy, and it sounds as if you didn't either.

Marie Cloutier said...

unforgettable is good even if the book wasn't quite your thing. I'll keep an eye out for it!

Heidenkind said...

I prefer my graphic novels to come in the vampire romance category, so probably won't try this one.

Bybee said...

I was annoyed at how small the print was. Otherwise, I liked it all right. I'd be up for reading more of Chris Ware's work.

Kathleen said...

I probably need to finish Fun Home first!