Maybe it’s my current, foul mood, but I doubt it. I’ve had this opinion for a couple of days now – The Cheese Monkeys sucked. Let me step back a second and say that The Cheese Monkeys is a book by Chip Kidd about art school in the late 1950’s and “finding your calling” and “the loss of innocence” and all sorts of similar cliched book review phrases.
I bought the book because Chip Kidd is an awesome book jacket designer and he did a great job luring me in with this one. I love smallish paperback books with the satin finish covers. This one was the perfect size and had a weird cover that intrigued me. I picked it up and saw that the first few pages are printed off the page. The left half of a paragraph on one page, the right half on the back of that page. Interesting and fun. Then I noticed the spine! Is it called the spine? Not where it’s bound, but the other side. The endpapers maybe? When you spread the pages out one way, you can read “DO YOU SEE?” Splay them the opposite way and it reads “GOOD IS DEAD” Fantastic! I must read this book on the spot.
The first half of the book I loved. I could see it all in my head. The characters, I had them all cast for the movie. Each one with their own twisted sides. The narrator, his best friend/worst enemy, the innocent Southern classmate, the loony drawing teacher and the insane graphic design teacher. Loved them all. And I was actually learning! The book follows the design class and some of the lessons the teacher rants about were great and right on. Very interesting. I told everyone how much I loved the book, told them all they had to read it. Well I take that all back.
It was as if one day I was reading the book and I loved it, the story had been on a path for some time now and I looked forward to finishing. Then the next day I picked up the book and it was a different book. Or written by a different person. Suddenly it was much darker. The characters were turning really bizarre and they were all starting to use a lot more 50’s slang. And am I crazy, or did the font change? What’s going on? It picked up momentum, destroyed everything I ever enjoyed about the story and SLAMMED to an end. A seriously messed up ending. A dark and desperate, sleep deprived, vomit-descriptive, bloody, frantic and UNFINISHED end. I looked for more pages. I knew when the ink of the dialogue of a certain character started to get lighter and lighter that the end was near and I wasn’t going to be happy.
I decided to go to my computer and write about how disappoined I am in this book. But first, I wanted to Google a name from the book. The narrator’s best friend/worst enemy (not sure what to call her) is named Himillsy. Himillsy Dodd, to be exact. An odd name, but I like it when names are used to add meaning to the story, so maybe this one means “crazy little woman in need of serious therapy”. I Googled Himillsy and found this blog, cowritten by not only Himillsy Dodd, but also Winter Sorbeck – that’s the crazy graphic design teacher’s name! Now I’m curious. Who are these people? Does Chip Kidd hate them?? They appear to live in D.C. and be a normal, young, modern couple blogging about life and work and politics. Where is the connection? I read several interviews with Kidd after the publishing of The Cheese Monkeys and I see no mention of his friends Mills and Winter. Weird.
Upon further digging, it appears that there’s a band called Himillsy Dodd also.
Still disappointed but now also intrigued…