Apologies all around for taking far too long to feed the hungry blog-monster. I’ve been busy trying to figure out computational linguistics. And also designing my She-Ra, Princess of Power, costume for when I (fingers crossed) crash Comic-Con. It will happen. Oh yes, it will happen. For the honour of Greyskull!
Okay, so maybe I spent a little too much time on the latter, but computational linguistics is just a class; She-Ra is forever.
So what’s on the block today? It’s Habibi by Craig Thompson. (I know, another graphic novel, right? Shut up.) Brace yourself, it’s going to get mean.
Let’s get this out of the way. I hated this book…graphic novel…thing. No, seriously, I hated it. Hated it. HATED IT. Just talking about it is making me all agitated and smashy.
So what did I hate? Story-wise, everything. The non-place Islamic-y setting was not the abstract fairytale landscape the author was going for; instead, it made the story inaccessible and confusing. Tone-wise, the typical combination of whinging, grandiosity, and pretentious self-awareness that characterizes Thompson’s other works, Blankets and Carnet de Voyage (there’s another I haven’t read, and won’t). I didn’t hate the characters, but I found them to be both inconsistent and unrealistic.
And then shit got weird. Cough castration cough. Yeah, it was disturbing. What is the deal with this guy and sex? Craig, buddy, I know you had an effed up, religious upbringing, but dude, seriously. Get over it. Don’t you live in Portland now? Portland, where the dream of the ’90s lives, where everybody’s freak flag flies high and freaky. Put a bird on it. Chill out. It’s okay to like sex. Please don’t cut off your boules robotiques. Crikee.
The whole sex-guilt thing got pretty boring, and the way Thompson lingered over it (and boy did he linger–this book is freaking massive, like two hundred pages longer than it should have been) felt veeery uncomfortable. Like someone was enjoying it all a little too much. Reveling in sexual violence, exploitation, and, ultimately, mutilation, while never managing to convey any discernible message condemning these practices (not even exploring them in a thoughtful way) made Habibi feel like very pretty torture porn.
Lots of other people have talked about the problems of appropriation and racism that are present in this book, so I won’t. I will say I found it too inert and, frankly, ridiculous, to be truly offensive. It was reductive, repetitive, unfocused, and sophomoric.
But damn, it was pretty. I have never admired the beauty of something I hated so much (oh wait, that’s a lie; several ex-boyfriends can be included in the god-I-hate-you-but-DAMN-you’re-pretty category). Check it:
Rating: Because of the art alone, I give this book/graphic novel: One out of five ‘deeply metaphorical’ (um, yeah, right) ruined boats in the desert.
I prefer this habibi. Yum. Screw you, Craig – let’s all do some crazy sexy-dancing, librarian style. By belly-dancing and fake-flamencoing in a sexy style around our tiny kitchens and grim, shoebox apartments while hugging our irritated cats to our woefully single bosoms! WOOOO!