June 23, 2009

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Goodbye Chunky Rice

Written by Craig Thompson
Illustrated by Craig Thompson
Top Shelf

[Top Shelf has been very kind and linked to many of my reviews on their site. I'm going to do the courteous thing here and warn them not to do so for this one, as I can't say I really liked the book the way I've liked almost all of their other titles I've read. Thanks again for the links, Top Shelf!]

I got this because Thompson worked with James Kochalka, whom I happen to really like, on a zine (well, technically graphic novel, but for all intents and purposes, it was a zine). The book won a Harvey and put Thompson on the map. It got rave reviews from Alan Moore, amongst others.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be one of the others as I found the story to contain just a bit too much needless angst for my taste. The main character and I just didn't connect, and when the focus is on angst, the reader must identify with the protagonist. I just wasn't able to do so based on the story as I perceived it.

The plot is about a turtle, who leaves his doormouse love to go traveling, for reasons he doesn't know. He meets a pair of dysfunctional bothers, weathers a storm, and talks to a set of Siamese twins. It should have worked better for me, I would have thought, because this kind of book is just what I've really enjoyed reading lately. As longtime readers of my reviews no, I am no stranger to personal narrative books, and generally speaking, I really like them.

My problem, however, is that this one's an angst-fest without a real reason for the angst. There's no hurt, no slight, no sense of difference or isolation to drive the character's melancholy. I can't even see why the main character has to leave, prompting a lot of the angst. "Oh no, I have a good girlfriend (boyfriend? hard to tell the gender), but I have to leave." Why? We never get an answer, other than he's restless. Well, then, your fault if you end up unhappy. Thompson just doesn't bring me into the story, either by design or by accidental omission of a compelling reason for the characters' actions.

I hate to disagree with Alan Moore, but I just didn't think this story deserved the accolades it received. But then again, "Empire" is my least favorite of the 3 Star Wars films, so I'm no stranger to disagreeing with a large group of people. If you can take your angst without a generating reason, I think you'll like this a lot better than I did.