Thompson, Craig. Carnet de Voyage.

(Travel Journal Volume One) Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2004.

I’m a fan of graphic novels, but I try to be a critical and discerning one. One of the best I’ve ever read is the autobiographical Blankets, published in 2003, and which runs to nearly 600 pages. It got Craig a lot of attention and the following year his publisher packed him off to Europe on a multi-month promotional tour. (They take comics much more seriously in Europe than they do in the States.)

The author is a much different person now than the rather naïve fundamentalist depicted in Blankets, having dumped both religion and Wisconsin for Oregon and the life of a professional artist. He also has — had — a girlfriend (whom he insists on always referring to as his “lover”) who dumped him just before he left on the tour, which has a decided effect on his state of mind. He’s combining the comics conventions and bookstore signings in France, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland with a side trip to Morocco to do research — or just to taste the atmosphere, actually — for his next graphic novel (which turned out to be Habibi, 2011). The present book is simply his travel diary, which, being an artist, records his thoughts as much pictorially as verbally.

But it’s not nearly as good as his more consciously creative work. Craig comes across as a rather whiny, self-pitying, egotistical person, absorbed in his own homesickness, mourning his recently torpedoed relationship, a victim of somewhat unexpected culture shock, drawing trees and kitty-cats in preference to people, and finding nothing good to say about Morocco (though that’s probably unavoidable, given North Africa’s extreme foreignness for westerners). He’s frequently ill as he travels and suffers from extreme tendonitis and arthritis in his drawing hand. Actually, given his success in his chosen field, and the apparently large number of friends and professional colleagues in America and Europe with whom he’s on good terms, he comes across as more than a little pathetic. He sometimes acknowledges this and makes fun of his own wimpiness, but I suspect he could be a trying travel companion. The glimpses he provides of other countries and cultures, and of the people he meets and their kindnesses to him, are all quite good, but Craig himself is another matter. I’ll be watching for his next novel, and I’ll certainly reread Blankets in a couple of years, but I won’t be adding this one to my collection.

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Published in: on 29 June 2012 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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