email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEarly ExposuresEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGoing Into TownGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersGreat Hiking Trails of the WorldH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaHow Art WorksI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNot My ShameNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPortraits of ResiliencePostmodernismprettycitynewyorkPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlayRXSame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe PervertThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?Why Comics?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Jimmy Corrigan is a lengthy
graphic novel about its namesake. It is
a difficult book to read because it seems to repetitive. The main character is of course Jimmy
Corrigan, whose father abandoned the family when he was a boy. Jimmy is an emotionally crippled man whose
main facial expressions register fear, bewilderment, and worry, with occasional
signs of sorrow and loneliness. He has
thinning hair and he slouches, making him seem old, although in flashbacks to
his childhood, we see he always looked like that. The only person he talks with regularly is his aged mother, who
frets over him and chastises him when he does not immediately return her phone
calls. The central event in the novel
is Jimmy's trip to visit his father for Thanksgiving, who has contacted him
after many years of silence. He obeys
his father's request, despite the fact that he has no idea who his father is or
even what he looks like. We find that
his father is emotionally abusive and manipulative, and from flashbacks we see
that he was always so. Jimmy is a
pathetic figure, and to plough through hundreds of pages of this graphic novel
as each episode of this trip is recorded in minute detail is exhausting.
One might compare this to some of
the plays of Samuel Beckett, which are equally bleak in showing the complete
lack of communication between the different characters. But nearly all of Beckett's plays are also
darkly humorous and even openly comic, and most of them have the virtue of
being short. One might also compare
Ware's work to the angry young film directors who created the British "New
Cinema" of the late 1950s and early 1960s, who with rather humorlessly
highlighted class divisions and the drudgery of work--films such as Room at
the Top, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and Billy
Liar. The more subtle work of
British film director Mike Leigh in films such as Home Sweet Home or Nuts
in May might also serve as a reference point for discussing Ware's
Such comparisons bring to the
foreground the political elements in the Ware's work. Jimmy Corrigan is set in twentieth
century United States of America, and it can be read as social commentary. Jimmy lives in the suburbs and works downtown,
and he visits father in Chicago; when he was a child his family lived in the
country, and through the flashbacks, one gets some sense of the shifting
cultural life in the background of the family's history. His family is white and dysfunctional, and Jimmy
works in an anonymous office cubicle.
Jimmy's story is not so much one of a search for meaning and community
as one of his being buffeted around by the demands of others, and his utter
inability to even articulate his emotional reactions, let alone try to change
his situation. If Jimmy represents the
average American, then Ware has a particularly miserable view of his country.
However, what makes Jimmy
Corrigan so distinctive is its artwork.
Ware's style is deceptively simple.
His lines are strong and confident.
The colors are solid and simple, yet the detail and precision in the
drawing is astonishing. It is
reminiscent of classic comic art, especially in its depiction of buildings and
the city. His drawing of faces is
minimalist but effective, and conveys the mutual incomprehension of all his
characters. Ware uses the page in a
wide variety of ways, with frames of different sizes and in arrangements all
through the book. Some of the frames go
down to very small sizes, with many on the page, while others occupy a whole
half page. Occasionally Ware takes the
narrative into fantasy as a way of conveying some of Jimmy's inner life, and
the surrealism is visually arresting -- giant Jimmy roaming through the city,
or tiny Jimmy lost in a huge armchair.
There's no question that Jimmy
Corrigan is a milestone in the form of the graphic novel. It's a mammoth work that explores broad
themes and is highly inventive in its graphic style. Its major limitation is the narrow emotional range of its main character
and the lack of humor, which makes it hard work to get through. Hopefully, when Ware writes a more concise
work with a different main character, it will be more gripping to read.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Link: Publisher's web page for book.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy
Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology
Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in
medicine, psychiatry and psychology.