19 September 2013

Review: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2003 (originally 1995-2000)

Acquired January 2012
Previously read February 2012
Reread August 2013
The Smartest Kid on Earth, Jimmy Corrigan: An Improvisatory Romance, Pictographically Configured by Chris Ware

What struck me about Jimmy Corrigan on this reread (I am teaching the book to freshmen) was how difficult the beginning of it is, which quickly becomes smoothed out as the novel progresses. The early sections are replete with strange fantasies (Jimmy is a robot, Jimmy must kill a horse, Jimmy is an English gentlemen who drinks G&Ts on yachts), but these trickle away until we're left with just the parallel tracks of Jimmy and his Victorian ancestor. Part of the way through, though, Ware actually stops the story to spell out which bits are real; prior to that, I don't think there's any clue that Victorian Jimmy is actually real. By the end, though, the book is positively easy to comprehend. Is this just because Ware was making it up as he went along (it is "an improvisatory romance," after all), or is some other reason at work?

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