The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd

10Jan07


If you like slightly pretentious books about art school in the late 1950s, I think you’ll like this book. Chip Kidd is a relatively famous book designer (the next time you pick up a book and think, “Wow, I like the way this book is laid out,” look in the inside cover. It’s probably designed by Chip Kidd), and this book shows his skills. He wrote and designed it. Definitely try to get the paperback version so you can play around with some of the features. And I mean play. This book contains font changes, hidden words, course descriptions, and a lot more.
The main character, who is never named, is a freshman art major who is going to art school in the late ’50s because he thinks art is stupid. What a premise for a book. I think that’s why The Cheese Monkeys is only a little pretentious, when it could have gone the whole nine yards. The characters who matter don’t pretend to “know” art or have talent. They are quirky, weird, and, admittedly, a little emo. But come on, this is a novel about someone’s freshman year at art school. The angsty-ness made me sort of nostalgic. It’s also nice to think that college freshman were angsty even in the ’50s. (The timeframe for the book allows for cool mod parties and hip beatniks, too.)
A word to the wise: Maybe the ending of this book isn’t meant to be understood. I was a little mad and disappointed at the conclusion, but the wordplay and diction of the rest of the text made up for any problems I had with the end.
***1/2

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2 Responses to “The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd”

  1. 1 lucubrator

    I read this book out loud on a long road trip back from Idaho. My traveling companion was an art student herself and I think that helped our enjoyment – the rather disgusting scene during final project time particularly. I agree that the pretention level could have been worse – it’s been a while, but I felt he ended up making an argument for the female character’s life being more “art” than any of the work they did.By the way, I’m really enjoying your blog. lucubrator.wordpress.com

  2. 2 painted lady

    i agree, lubrucator!


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