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The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  4,328 ratings  ·  522 reviews
After 15 years of designing more than 1,500 book jackets at Knopf for such authors as Anne Rice and Michael Crichton, Kidd has crafted an affecting an entertaining novel set at a state university in the late 1950s that is both slap-happily funny and heartbreakingly sad. The Cheese Monkeys is a college novel that takes place over a tightly written two semesters. The book is ...more
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Published March 1st 2009 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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I just glanced at some earlier reviews from readers to make sure I didn't miss something on this one, and the second review I saw (from Billy) perfectly described my reaction to this novel. It's about 270 pages, the first 220 or so of which are incredibly entertaining and among the few times I've enjoyed an author's attempt at rendering life in the college scene.

Then, as things are rolling beautifully along, the bottom falls out of this book, and the whole plot spirals out of control. Indeed, be
Sep 03, 2007 Danielle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art school kids, lovers of graphic design, david sedaris fans
I read this years ago but I've still got my copy sitting proudly on my bookshelf as it is signed by Chip Kidd himself, whom I met at a reading he did in Dallas shortly after the book hit the shelves. Kidd is best known for his work as a graphic artist, specifically book cover art. His biggest client is John Updike, even though I'm pretty sure Updike says he hates Kidd's writing. Chip Kidd's best-known cover is probably for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, the logo of which ended up on the movie ...more
"The Cheese Monkeys" is, for more than 250 pages, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. Our hero is a freshman at State, enrolled in art classes. He meets an older sassy wild card named Himillsy Dodd who is full of fun and big ideas. They spend time drinking, eating ice cream, drunk driving and talking about art. (Himillsy also has a very serious straight-laced, straight edge, non cluttered boyfriend who rarely interrupts the flow of their friendship). Second semester finds t ...more
infuriating. hated every single page of it. way too pretentious for its own good, and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. with every pop-referencing metaphor, heavy handed with over-the-top "get it? get it?" irony, you get the feeling that it would go so far as to wink at you if it weren't so busy patting itself on the fucking back. terrible, shrill, trite, egomaniacal characters worshipped by the pathetically insecure and earnest narrator. i didn't care much for these three characters to b ...more
Jul 18, 2008 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hannah
Recommended to Katie by: the library's "surprise!" shelf
WHAT the?... I just finished this, and as soon as I finish reviewing it, I'm going to go search out all the reviews with SPOILERS so I can hear someone talk about the ending.

This book is kind of like if you took Donna Tartt, Thomas Pynchon, David Sedaris, J.D. Salinger, and all those episodes of Six Feet Under where Claire goes to art school and whirred them up in a blender... Not a bad concoction in the end. And I don't mean to suggest Kidd is derivative. He actually has a pretty fearless voic
Sep 19, 2008 Sadie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Illiterate people
Something on the book "jacket" mentioned that the author is actually a graphic designer and that this is his first attempt at actually writing. That fact is painfully apparent.

Every paragraph feels like a high school descriptive writing assignment. Kidd's overuse of metaphors, in particular, is so distracting that I frequently lose track of the novel's action (if you can even call it that).

The jacket design is engaging and unique, but the same cannot be said of the story itself.
Next on my list out of the four books I spontaneously bought was Chip Kidd’s ‘The Cheese Monkeys’, subtitled ‘A Novel in Two Semesters’. For those not familiar with the author’s name, you’d probably be familiar with at least a few pieces of his work, given he’s basically designed every worthwhile book cover on the planet (or at least that’s the impression his wiki gives). It’s kind of obvious that this is a book telling of design, as the book itself has a few quirky features, the most startling ...more
Zan G
May 24, 2007 Zan G rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Graphic Designers, Art Students
This is a quick read and mostly enjoyable. The cover and title pages have really great design work, as Kidd is known for, and the book is worth picking up for that reason alone.

I've heard a lot of critics say that it's extremely predictable and it sort of is in that "crazy teacher that students hate and then bond with" kind of way. What it has that movies and books of this tired genre lack are a few good twists, a lot of good dark humor and a teacher whose inspirational speeches have less happy
Tyler Jones
Three stars for the writing. Five stars for infectious passion. Final score four stars.

First a story: I was working in a small independent bookstore in Calgary when this book came out. I fell in love with it as an object before I ever read it. If you have seen the original hardcover, you'll know why - vertical front flap belly-band, the "secret" messages printed on the long cut edge of the bound pages, the list of those the author thanks running along the thin edge of the cover itself and countl
Nate D
A brief interlude between longer, more involved selections. Has the distinction of the widest margins-to-page-size of anything I have ever read. Maybe a jokey reference to college students trying to make their term papers look longer? It would hardly be outside of the book's scope or tone to do so.


Well, I like to be entertained, and I was entertained. So no complaints there. It was a strange novel, though. Briskly frivolous, then oddly didactic, then positively Dantean. I'm not yet convinced
Apparently I'm in one of those phases where I don't trust anything new and am only rereading things I know I loved. And if this is 1/8 as good as Bogeywoman , I will have several more very happy days.


Good, but not as good the second time around. It seemed too short & much less complete. The main girl was awesome awesome, but the main guy was pretty inconsistent and kind of hard to believe. And the writing style started to grate after awhile. But the plot was still super, and the design ad
I did not like this book because it was witty. It was so witty that I was utterly confused the entire time because instead of saying what was actually happening, the author would say it “wittily”. I am a sharp person, but sometime extreme wit takes me days to process, and even then I can only process small doses. Several hundred pages of wit is overwhelming. Also, the plot was not hilarious, like so many of the reviews on here promised, unless you think rape and molesting is funny. However, like ...more
Allison Floyd
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ulf Kastner
Mar 22, 2008 Ulf Kastner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: drama queens, prima donnas and those who enjoy their company
Recommended to Ulf by: Blairrichardson
Quickness: Three weeks ago I watched and listened to the author field questions from one jovial local designer friend of his who'd joined forces with a local chapter of a graphic designers union for the purpose of said Q&A. Kidd was suitably entertaining without catering too much to the assembled five dozen, mostly adoring fans. A week thereafter a dear designer friend of mine gifts me Kidd's two published novels for my birthday. The next week and a half go to reading-waste as a result of SX ...more
Corey Vilhauer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 09, 2009 Eric rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A must for graphic designers
Recommended to Eric by: Kevin Shult
Shelves: coming-of-age
In short:

Holden Caulfield goes to art school, meets Marla Singer, antics ensue, Samuel Beckett hijacks the finale.

In more detail:

It reads as three separate pieces, the first two of which I greatly enjoyed. Act One sees our protagonist off to college at "State"; Act Two focuses on the interaction between our freshman narrator and Professor Winter Sorbeck, who is narrowly toeing the genius/insanity line; Act Three takes an unfortunate and rather sharp turn into existential tripe.

Despite the uns
This is exactly the kind of book that I love. A pointed skewering/aggrandizement of academia in which a bunch of self-proclaimed intellectuals try to outsmart each other. I eat that shit up. This should have been a slam dunk. But for some reason,I didn't exactly love it. I liked it. It made me smirk and giggle and think - the ultimate trifecta. And yet. Something crucial was missing. This book has no soul. It's a cute widdle vampire; an artsy, charming cyborg. Highly entertaining but not altoget ...more
Kyle Mcginn
A great big pile of pseudo-postmodernist splatter dressed up in cutesy adjective streams.

The book ventures into some interesting territory, but gets pinned beneath the Nick Carraway effect of a vanilla white boy narrator.

More than anything this book missed the basic question that Creative Writing majors are asked day one of workshop: why this story? Why today? Why these people? It's simply not answered. More than that, the book just reads as "Hey, the 50s, right? Hey, art, right? Hey, crazy kook
1. Art school in the 50s. Crazy fuckers at art school in the 50s.
2. Primer for design.
3. Like, seriously, the book talks about graphic design and is itself a masterpiece of design. It's a fun book to read for the physicality of the book. If you're one of those ebook lovers, in this case an ebook would drain the life out of the book. I mean, the prose is still well executed...but it's not the same.
Well, this was certainly an interesting novel, if nothing else...The novel is told in two parts, and follows a college student through his freshman year in the 1950s. The first part, which follows "Happy" (the only name given to the main character) through the first semester, is fairly straightforward: boy meets girl, boy loves girl, girl is already taken, boy continues to follow girl around like a sap, with some art lessons thrown in for good measure. The second part is where things get a littl ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I have this terrible fear that this
review will be graded by the author.
Consequently, I have, in my defense,
nothing to say, this book.

I wanted to like it, because Kidd's work is so striking to me. I remember when I discovered the different borzois on the spines of Knopf titles, how he changed them to suit. The borzoi on the spine of Geek Love had five legs, which really appealed to me, even if I never had any interest in reading the book. And for The History of Luminous Motion, released around the same time, and which I did love, the borzoi was rendered all in straight lines.

But no, the novel didn't appeal.
Fantastic all around. I've admired Chip Kidd's covers for years. This "memoir" about becoming a designer is in turns hilarious, painful, and thought-provoking. If you like graphic design, read it.
Jason P
This book was fantastic from beginning to end. Chip Kidd's way of keeping the reader enthralled and wanting more makes the adventure through art school one to always remember.
Here's a quick, quirky novel to start the new year and it feels like I've just finished a one-day crash Graphics Design course.

Kidd's first novel is a beautiful design fantasy that would be rendered impotent in electronic format. Every element of the book, including dust jacket, covers, binding, and typography, is tweaked and emphasized in ways that will delight anyone interested in real books. If ultimately it is not quite "something that I've never seen before and will never be able to forget
Strange. Came across this title in another book's review. It's a work of fiction by a lauded graphic designer known for his book covers (eg, Jurassic Park). The plot follows a college boy and his classmates during their first two semesters of art school classes replete with a brilliant/wacky genius/jerk teacher and a brilliant/wacky genius/jerk love-interest/classmate.

Some of the writing in this novel is funny, or at least surprising and clever. But it's uneven, bouncing from high brow to sopho
Kind of perplexing. But also thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing, and quotable.
wow....Just WoW. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into but man what a good read this was. I can't say I loved all the characters but I've got to admit I wouldn't have minded a Winter in my life as a teacher, as long as I didn't have to take any of his classes but I guess in the end the main characters well I won't say anymore. They say that good art is something that makes you feel and think so I have to say for me this book was good art ;D I can't remember a book (that wasn't a kid's boo ...more
Katy Gallagher
The other, better version of Mysteries of Pittsburgh.
Liz Smith
Alrighty, so the narrator begins college and can't decide what he really wants to do so he picks an Art Major as a cop out. Of course he meets eccentric people through the art program, which makes for much dark comedy humor. With many course filled for 2nd semester he and his friends end up taking a graphic design course. It's the 1950's so a course like this is very new and very different. Add in a crazy professor and you have, "The Cheese Monkeys." It was a pretty good read and dropped my jaw ...more
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Chip Kidd is an American author, editor and graphic designer, best known for his innovative book covers.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Kidd grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, strongly influenced by American popular culture. While a design student at Penn State, an art instructor once gave the assignment to design a book cover for Museums and Women by John Updike, who is also a Shillington native. T
More about Chip Kidd...
The Learners Batman: Death by Design Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design Book One: Work, 1986-2006 Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz

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