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The Cheese Monkeys

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  5,317 ratings  ·  611 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published 2001)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,317 ratings  ·  611 reviews

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Sep 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
"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
Jul 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even though I went to art school forty years after the narrator in the book, I saw plenty of familiar things in his experience and the characters he shows us. Although reviews describe the story as funny and also sad, I really saw the "sad" parts more along the lines of the things we all go through at a young age as we try to find out who we are. The funny parts are completely hysterical, perhaps slightly less so if you have never set foot in a college art class, but I found them to be on par wi ...more
Tyler Jones
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
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
Natalie Harroch-Harper
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly hilarious! Chip Kidd is a rare gem and I totally appreciate his quirky writing style. His sarcastic descriptions are so on point and I laughed out loud about a dozen times (on a dead quiet train chock full at rush hour!!)

To top it off, the book design is incredibly thoughtful and creative. LOVE the foredge graphics and split page credits. So well done and a million out of 5 stars for that.

I'm buying whatever Chip's selling!!
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, cult
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
Allison Floyd
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nate D
Jun 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
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
Mar 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
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 a
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.

Mar 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
picked this up at a library sale for $4 which is super expensive for a library sale but i really wanted it for some reason and now that i've read it, i realize i should have kept my $4 to spend on something else.

i really enjoyed this book for the first half of it. it takes place at a state college in the late 1950's. the main character is a boy who is really unsure of himself and he finds a friend in himillsy dodd, a strange artsy girl. they go for drinks at this underground bar, they work on pr
Dec 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Zan G
May 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: strange-unusual
I adored the art school setting and the twists . I found it to be very funny, entertaining and Winter Sorbeck is a great character.

Some complain that this is predictable, but I found the twists to be surprising enough to keep my attention. The basic plot of crazy teacher turns kids minds' around and the awkward geeky boy has a thing for the manic pixie dream girl all has been done before and better. The Himislly character was too over the top and annoying. I might've liked this if I read it a f
Jan 17, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019-bitchess
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, career
At my university, graphic design majors didn't exist. There was a graphic design class, sure, but it was conducted by the school of art. I agree with Winter Sorbeck -- graphic design doesn't belong in any school of art.

It belongs under the school of communications or, lacking that, the journalism school (J-school). Why? Because it's not art. Art can be beautiful or pathetic, deep or meaningless; it can be made for a specific reason or none at all. Art doesn't have to do or be anything to be art.
Corey Vilhauer
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ulf Kastner
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sue Smith
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well this book was one of the most refreshing books I've read in a long time! There aren't too many out there that will make me snort with laughter when I'm reading it and this one did on more than one occasion! Let me clarify too, that the reason I found it so hilarious was the complete quirkiness of the characters and the fact that they were art students (That combination often goes hand in hand - in case you don't know that many art students)and the sheer qenius of the writing. Oh if I could ...more
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fun fact: written by the guy who designs covers for Haruki Murakami.
Also, I apparently have a thing for books about art students / the art world. Go figure.

"Bestine, give up. You're smitten with this idea and it's making a fool of you. Everyone?" He stood. "Never fall in love with an idea. They're whores: if the one you're with isn't doing the job, there's always, always, always another one."
(p. 144)

Reread August 2017: yeah, still love this one. I felt a little more critical of it this time, b
Aug 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016

The Cheese Monkeys is a achievement of design as core.
The novel is set in two semester as it’s is mentioned on the book cover.
In the first semester, the narrator registers in an Art 101 course that lives down to his expectations, but his perspective changes once and for all when he meets Himillsy Dodd who stands out in the conservative late-'50s milieu.
In the second semester, when the two are defaulted into a graphic-design class taught by Winter Sorbeck, a half-crazy Gary Cooper. Their assign
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm gonna be honest: I bought this book because of the cover art. Also the messages in the spine, the purposely bisected text, the reviews from those who loved it AND hated it...I thought it was brilliant. I am factoring all of this into my 4-star rating. The books itself was good and crisp, but I remember thinking that the last bit of the book was much darker and seemed a bit out of place. I liked it a lot, but it didn't fit with the rest of the story. But I guess that's what delirium does to y ...more
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 altoge ...more
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is honestly one of my favorite books of all time. If only he wrote more books like it -- the follow-up, called the Learners, brings up a university experiment that, if the reader already knows the real life experiment, wrecks the suspense. This first one, however, was original and kept me hooked up through the last page. Great stuff.

((Okay, and now I just read this book again, in 2017, and it remains one of my favorite books. The character descriptions are fantastic))
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
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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
“Never fall in love with an idea. They're whores: if the one you're with isn't doing the job, there's always, always, always another.” 71 likes
“Commercial Art tries to make you buy things. Graphic Design gives you ideas.” 10 likes
More quotes…