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Book Club Fri Jun 22 2007

July 2007 Selection: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

For July 2007, we are shaking things up a little and reading our first graphic novel for the book club: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes.

Ghost World tells the story of Enid and Becky, two friends facing the uncertainties of life after high school. Enid is the bold one, seemingly fearless in her experimentation. In the eight interconnected stories that make up the graphic novel, Enid is trying on a new look and new hairstyle in each one. Her more forceful personality typically drives the narrative. Becky is her foil, getting caught up in Enid's schemes and adventures. But Becky is no mere follower either, just more cautious.

They hang out at a faux '50s diner, make crank calls, mock the people around them, and mercilessly tease their friend Josh. And although they are navigating their way towards adulthood, Enid and Becky still cling to childhood things, like a favorite toy or children's album. But when Becky finds out Enid may be leaving for college, they are forced to learn that growing up means allowing each other to grow and change, even if it risks their friendship.

The dialogue in Ghost World is pitch-perfect. Clowes has an uncanny way of capturing the way teenagers really talk. The language is frequently raunchy – Enid and Becky don't talk like "nice" girls – but it is authentic for the characters.

And the artwork of Ghost World is beautifully drawn, consisting of simple, elegant illustrations. Yet Clowes has an eye for ugliness – either for finding ugliness in beauty, or beauty in the ugly. His characters are tinged with strangeness and are frequently depicted with slack lips, bulbous noses, lank hair, beady eyes and prominent teeth.

Clowes does not even exclude himself from this treatment. When Enid goes to Zine-A-Phobia to meet famous cartoonist "David" Clowes, he turns out to be a leering, balding, creepy guy sitting alone at a table. Enid leaves without speaking to him.

About the Author

Daniel Clowes was born in Chicago in 1961. His parents divorced when he was still a baby. About a year later his mother remarried. Her second husband was a stock-car racer, but he was killed in a racing accident when Clowes was just four years old. Then he was sent to live with his grandparents. His grandfather, James Cate, was a medieval history professor at the University of Chicago, and Clowes spent his formative years among distinguished visitors like Norman Maclean, Saul Bellow and John Hope Franklin. Clowes left Chicago after high school and currently lives in Oakland, California.

Resources

Official Author Page at Fantagraphics Books

A Daniel Clowes Bibliography
Possibly more than you ever wanted to know about Clowes.

Hermenaut Interview (Thanks, Mike!)

Salon.com Interview

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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