Carnet de Voyage
This is a truly unusual book. It's not a story per se, but a travelogue much in the vein of Boswell's adventures, save with far less words and more illustrations. Craig Thompson went on a research trip/signing tour to France, Morocco, The Alps and Barcelona in preparation for his next book, Habibi, and his publishers decided it would be nifty to publish his sketch journal of the journey. They were right.
It shows you these worlds in a different light. A photo log would show only a frozen moment, clean cut, a swatch of land, a piece of architecture, someone smiling even if they didnt mean it. Thompson's pictures show you more, they show you the feeling of the moment, what he saw and felt with honesty. You get a real feel for what the places looked like, but you also understand more about them, because in a way he's letting us see them through his eyes. You get nifty bits of information from his experience, like how he started drawing cats and trees while in Marrakesh because he figured drawing women would be prohibited, and any of the males wanted money. I was also surprised by how hed get accosted to draw portraits. We get to learn a lot of other people's attitudes, towards Americans, towards life. It's interesting and enlightening.
We also understand the emotions he was feeling during the trip...loneliness driven by the fact he'd just broken up with his girlfriend, guilt/annoyance with himself over feeling so lonely while people around him are suffering from poverty, being sick because in America everything is so sterile that the body can't easily fight off any foreign bacteria. I especially liked -- though simultaneously felt empathy with and sorry for -- how sometimes he'd really make fun of himself, drawing himself as a straw-hanging-out-of -the-corner-of-the-mouth, overall-wearing hick. These are all things that the reader can hook into...I know I've felt awkward sometimes, and uncultured when surrounded by people who have more experience with the world than I, and I also can sympathize with the loneliness...surrounded by things you'll never see again, it would be good to have someone to share the experience...and, later, the memories, with. Seeing things through the eyes of a friend as well as your own doubles the experience. In this, we become his travel companions by proxy. True, we can't later exchange stories about camels and French food, but we still have a share in it.
Realistically done (he often remarks how tired he is...I can see how that would be so...) filled with moments of joy as well as sadness. I think he sums it up best in the end: He says "our lives are so stupid and mundane and magical an sacred." I think he's right...no matter if you live in the boon docks of Pennsylvania, on a lake near Portland, in the Swiss alps, or near the markets of Marrakesh.
5 out of 5 sketchbooks
Cindy Lynn Speer