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October 5th, 2011 BEN WATERHOUSE | Headout
 

Beyond Blankets

Craig Thompson’s Habibi is a massive masterpiece.

headout-habibi_3748HABIBI - ILLUSTRATION: Craig Thompson

Portland cartoonist Craig Thompson was 27 when he published Blankets, an enormous, autobiographical “illustrated novel” about growing up in an evangelical family in rural Michigan. It’s an extraordinary, visually ornate book that immediately launched Thompson to the top tier of American graphic novelists. Since that book’s 2003 publication, though, Thompson’s only public output has been a 2004 travelogue, Carnet de Voyage, and an album cover for Menomena—until last week, when his new book, Habibi, finally arrived in stores. So what has Thompson been doing for the past seven years?

Learning Arabic calligraphy: Blankets was a visually busy work, with recurring paisley and natural motifs often filling every nook and cranny of its pages. So it’s no wonder that he would be attracted to the intricacies of Islamic calligraphy and geometric design. Habibi’s pages are rich with ornamentation.

Reading. A lot: Habibi is, in addition to being a love story, a terrifying fantasy and an ecological cautionary tale, about the stories we tell and why we tell them. Thompson alludes to or quotes from the Quran and the Hebrew Bible and a dozen or so Muslim poets. 

Drawing. A lot: Habibi is 672 pages, longer than the already hefty Blankets and even more richly illustrated.

Brooding: Thompson’s prior work wasn’t exactly dark. Habibi is. Its two protagonists endure dehydration, starvation, enslavement, castration, incarceration, torture and multiple rapes.

Letting his imagination run wild: It will take more than one read to evaluate the merit of Thompson’s thoughts on storytelling and divinity. The same is not true of the world he’s created around them. At once medieval and modern, full of harems and skyscrapers and slavers and outlandish weaponry, Habibi’s fictitious Middle Eastern kingdom is a complex and scary place. It would make a great setting for a tabletop RPG. Now where did I put my dice?


GO: Thompson appears Thursday, Oct. 6, from 6 to 10 pm at Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St.; Friday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 9 pm at Bridge City Comics, 3725 N Mississippi Ave.; and Saturday, Oct. 8, from 3 to 4 pm on Wordstock’s McMenamins Stage at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Thursday and Friday events are free. Wordstock costs $7.



Headout Picks

WEDNESDAY Oct. 5

[Fashion] PORTLAND FASHION WEEK
“Portland fashion” may look like an oxymoron most of the time, but there are beautiful people and beautiful clothes out there, and this week they come together for runway shows, parties and shopping. Oct.5-9. See portlandfashionweek.net for times and locations.

THURSDAY Oct. 6

[MUSIC] GIRLS, SONNY AND THE SUNSETS, PAPA
San Francisco’s Girls sideswiped everyone in 2009 with Album, a chiming garage-pop record that ended up on every best-of-the-year list. Yet their sophomore album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, still comes as a brilliant surprise. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., 284-8686. 9 pm. $13 advance, $14 day of.

FRIDAY Oct. 7

[MOVIE] THE IDES OF MARCH
If you are feeling a wee cynical about the compromises of one Democratic president, this George Clooney movie will curdle those doubts into perfect sourness. It’s like an anti-Bus Project. Various theaters including Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10, 846 SW Park Ave., 221-3280. Multiple showtimes. $10.50.

[THEATER] NO MAN’S LAND
Artists Rep brings back genuine famous person William Hurt for his fourth show with the company in a production of Harold Pinter’s strange play. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 241-1278. 7:30 pm Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 pm Sundays. Closes Nov. 6. $35-$65, $25 students.

SATURDAY Oct. 8

[CHEESE] THE WEDGE FESTIVAL
Cheese lovers gather at this festival featuring artisan and farmstead cheesemakers from Oregon, Washington and beyond. Green Dragon, 928 SE 9th Ave., 517-0660. 10 am-4 pm. Free, $5 suggested donation. 21+.

SUNDAY Oct. 9

[MUSIC] FEARNOMUSIC
Pianos and percussion combine in a new piece by composer Shaun Naidoo, FNM’s original four-piano version of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and more. Kaul Auditorium at Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., 234-9694. 8 pm. $24.50-$35. All ages.

[MUSIC] CELSO MACHADO, GEOFF BERNER
If you think a human beat box is something, Brazilian-born Celso Machado is a whole human rain forest. He plays his guitar’s strings, but also its body, as a percussion instrument. Hell, he plays his own body as a percussion instrument. The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., 222-2031. 6 pm. $15. All ages.
 
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