Craig’s Psalm

I just finished reading Blankets, by Craig Thompson, a grippingly beautiful story.

I just finished reading Blankets, by Craig Thompson, an “illustrated” (graphic) novel. It’s a grippingly beautiful story of losses — that of first loves, youth and innocence, and the faith of our fathers. It’s a pilgrimage story in the purest sense of the word.

For any child of a Christian Evangelical household, Blankets hits eerily close to home. From subtle details in jargon, to broad strokes of dogma, the story captures the life very faithfully and brutally.

The problem that this life of rote eventuates is one of unresolved questions. In Craig’s case, his parents remained stern and distant when he needed them most in his formative years. Repression, guilt, and authoritarianism do not always yield obedient teenagers. Christianity of this flavor — separatism from the world’s pleasures — tends to create either intensely robotic young adults, or wildly rebellious ones. This dichotomy is in good keeping with the rest of fundamentalist Christianity’s keen interest in mutually exclusive ideals (good vs. evil, sectarian vs. secular).

The results for Craig were inevitable. Below is a harrowing example of his intense love for God, all the while torn by his love of the flesh. After meeting his first real love in a girl named Raina, Craig wrote this poem:

Thank you, God, for your perfect creation.
With skin as soft and pale as moonlight,
the bones beneath her skin tangling and rearranging,
rising along the lilac crest, and dipping into the clavicles.

Thank you for the rhythm of her movements, curling — sprawling —
Her contours lapping like waves around the blankets.
She is yours, she is perfect, a temple
with hair spilling over her temples.

Pressed against her I can hear eternity —
hollow, lonely spaces and
currents that churn ceaselessly,

And the fallen snow welcomes the falling snow
with a whispered “hush.”

Blankets has an amazing, almost cinematic sense of transitions. Craig’s use of silent panes to induce pause in the reader is nothing short of marvelous. He also incorporates a very studied sense of parallelism in his blanket theme. It’s curious how subtle these symbols unfold throughout the story, almost sly in their building.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Although be aware that it is for mature audiences, as some of the themes deal implicitly with the awkwardness of adolescence and the tragedy of child abuse.

2 Replies to “Craig’s Psalm”

  1. Patty, I appreciate your added thoughts. From what I understand, that’s the early heretical movement known as Gnosticism, which considered the flesh evil and to be avoided.

    For what it’s worth, there are a lot of gnostic influences behind most of modern day Christian repression in regards to sexual dysfunction.

  2. interesting. awhile back on the excelsis blogs (like over a year ago) we were discussing at what historical point christianity started divorcing the phiysical and the spiritual to result in the now common chrisitan dychotomy that flesh (physical) is equal to bad and the transcendental (soul, spirit) is equal to good.

    apparently, it has not always been the case. i vaguely remember someone referencing that in regard to hebrew tradition, the spiritual and the physical were more integrated- and this integration was an aspect of upright living.

    at any rate, this book sounds touching. that poem of craig’s- damn. reminds me of some sonnets that I really like but have a hard time reading because they are so personal and desribe human longing so well.

    oh, btw…not sure if it is allegorical or not, but Raina (in English) sounds like the Spanish word reina, which means Queen.

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