Marjorie Ingall's Reviews > Habibi

Habibi by Craig Thompson
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May 11, 12

bookshelves: grownups
Read in May, 2012

You know what, don't even bother with my review. Just read my Goodreads pal Madeline's (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). Or here, let me summarize it for you. THE GOOD: The art is gorge. Thompson can do everything. The lettering, the patterns, the clean strong lines, the departures from the conventional comix panel grid. Narratively, I liked the way Habibi yanks us back and forth in time and into old Quran and Torah stories. THE BAD: Oy, the fetishizing! The fetishizing of Orientalist cliches (harems, horndog sheiks), of women's bodies, of rape. I'm sure Thompson's intentions were good, but there's a real internalized -- and I'd venture to say unconscious -- artistic salivation over naked, restrained, victimized unwilling female bodies. Even the drawings of naked little girls (and trigger alert, there's a raped 9-year-old here) have a prurient quality to them. Perhaps Thompson would argue that he's drawing women and girls as they're seen by the men in their lives (almost all of whom are evil, except the eunuch, but that's a whole other megillah) or perhaps he's just absorbed superhero "how to draw women" stereotypes. I can't say. And I haven't even addressed the old-skool mammy and big scary black man stereotypes!

This book is ravishingly drawn and handsomely published (wait, why am I going all adverby? Oh well, this is for my friends, not for publication) and you gotta respect the ambition. I think the author's intent was thoughtful. But veyizmir, the rapey rapitude and Odalisque-y male gaze-y drooliness did not work for me at all. ISSUES, I HAZ THEM.
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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I concur, wholeheartedly, though I was unable to see the book through to the end. I did spend a lot of time with the Isaac/Ishmael/Abraham pages, and the calligraphy/art/design pages, but I couldn't get past the fetishizing.

I love Thompson's other stuff - try "Blankets" for nuanced storytelling and non-objectified female characters, and "Goodbye Chunky Rice" for achingly beautiful strangeness.


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