Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

Chris Ware, Author
Chris Ware, Author Pantheon Books $27.5 (380p) ISBN 978-0-375-74840-0
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Prebound-Glued - 978-1-4177-0947-2
Hardcover - 380 pages - 978-0-375-40453-5
Hardcover - 380 pages - 978-0-224-06210-7
Paperback - 380 pages - 978-0-375-71454-2
Paperback - 1 pages - 978-0-224-06397-5
Hardcover - 380 pages - 978-957-13-5125-4
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Ware's graphically inventive, wonderfully realized novel-in-comics follows the sad fortunes of four generations of phlegmatic, defeated men while touching on themes of abandonment, social isolation and despair within the sweeping depiction of Chicago's urban transformation over the course of a century. Ware uses Chicago's World's Colombian Exposition of 1893, the great world's fair that signaled America's march into 20th-century modernity, as a symbolic anchor to the city's development and to the narrative arc of a melancholic family as haplessly connected as are Chicago's random sprawl of streets and neighborhoods. In 1893, nine-year-old Jimmy Corrigan is abandoned atop a magnificent fair building by his sullen, brutish father (""I just stood there, watching the sky and the people below, waiting for him to return. Of course he never did""). Nearly a century later, another Jimmy CorriganDthe absurdly ineffectual, friendless grandson of that abandoned childDreceives a letter from his own long-absent, feckless father, blithely and inexplicably requesting him to come and visit. Ware's surprisingly touching story recounts their strange and pathetically funny reunion, invoking the emotional legacy of the great-grandfather's original act of desertion while presenting a succession of Corrigan men far more comfortable fantasizing about life than living it. The book is wonderfully illustrated in full color, and Ware's spare, iconic drawing style can render vivid architectural complexity or movingly capture the stark despondency of an unloved child. (Sept.)
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