Martin Earl's Reviews > Good-Bye, Chunky Rice

Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson
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Aug 19, 11

did not like it
bookshelves: comics

Hm. Where to begin. let's start with the good.

Solomon's dialect. This is the only thing giving the book any sense of place. As no place is ever mentioned except the fictional Kahootney Islands, it was nice to have an anchor, even if it was only a gulf-coast/Louisiana accent that did it. Solomon's dialect also made him one of the more endearing characters, in my opinion. Also, the book is well drawn. While I find some of the transitions and juxtapositions gimmicky, it was overall good in that respect.

Speaking of drawing, all the characters are split into two groups, visually: the grotesques and the not-grotesques. Those in the second group basically amount to Chunky, his (androgynously drawn and named) friend Dandel, the bird Merle, and the long-dead dog Stomper. Every other character (i.e. every human character) is a grotesque. Solomon (the uneducated bumpkin with the "Jesus Saves" shirt) certainly is a stereotype as well as a grotesque, but his kindness and careful nature despite his damaging past make for the most shining moments in the book and the only ones that are actually even close to poignant, though many try.

Women are represented in interesting ways. It is noteworthy that the only women whose faces we see are the "Siamese twins," who are decidedly grotesque, the old senile wig-wearing landlady Estelle, and the face in a picture of a dead wife (for whom Chuck is still taking lamps?). The only other woman character is the cook. We never see her face and we know that though she obviously doesn't care about Chuck in any kind of real way but sleeps with him anyway.

The relationship between Chunky and Dandel is never given any depth except that they both say how deeply important their relationship is. Dandel writes letters all the time, but we don't really know why. While that isn't strictly necessary, as we are entering the story at the point of departure, a little more history would be nice.

Chunky is a perplexing character. Though he is the point around which the whole book revolves, he is, as the gamers say, a Non Player Character. the only choice he makes in the entire book is the choice to leave, and once that choice has been made one time he never chooses anything else. He doesn't reconsider leaving based on the fact of his present happiness, he doesn't question the fee to travel on boat, or that Chuck throws his records into the water, or the fact that though he has paid he also has to work, or ANYTHING else. Everything happens to him, he causes nothing to happen. And he is practically mute. In 125 pages Chunky says literally 164 words (avg. 1.312 wds./pg.) of which six are sounds (whee, sigh, heh, um, etc.) and four are statements of his own name. He is, essentially, no more than a McGuffin.

Everything Dandel says after Chunky leaves is hipster rambling (nice trike and scarf). One thing that, upon further reflection, played well on this character was the androgyny. It takes the focus of the relationship away from questions of amorous love and places it within the realm of all loves. Are they lovers? Are they friends? It shows that friendship can be as strong and as important other kinds of love. HOWEVER, that same ambiguity in the relationship also highlights the perceived sexual aloofness of hipsters.

On the whole, I didn't understand this book (unless it's existential...then I get it). And I wouldn't recommend it.
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