Review: Jimmy Corrigen The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware

jimmy-corrigan An Astounding Examination of the Failures Between Fathers and Son

Rare is the work of literature that leaves you in stunned silence when the last page has been turned, the last word tasted on the tip of your tongue. Jimmy Corrigen is such a story, and the most surprising thing is that it’s a graphic novel. It is the first ever comic to receive the esteemed Guardian First Book Award, and it’s certainly no fluke.

Jimmy is a third generation Corrigen son, a very lonely man in a dead-end job, with an overbearing mother. He is everything but the smartest kid on earth, and frequently thinks of committing suicide. What keeps him from killing himself is the hope of getting to know his father, and discovering who has left him a mysterious love letter. His powerful imagination, in which he is a superhero, protects the fragile Jimmy from a cruel world that undermines his every effort to assert himself.

Jimmy’s narrative is inextricably woven with that of his father and his grandfather, as the novel explores their childhoods and the things that shaped the Corrigens, culminating in Jimmy’s sorry state. It is a touching tale that is not a little disturbing, packed with awesome attention to detail. In fact, Chris Ware’s abilities as a storyteller and illustrator, in portraying the complex and often uncomfortable relationships between fathers and sons, makes it seem that this is one of the most intimate autobiographies ever told. This graphic novel should be read by anyone who takes reading seriously, and everyone that doesn’t take comics seriously.

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