A hilarious debut novel that could only be described as a portrait of the designer as a young man.
"Um...so what exactly is a Cheese Monkey?"
Good question. But strictly off-limits. We can tell you that The Cheese Monkeys is a witty and effervescent coming-of-age novel about headless waterfowl, fake plastic babies, and the basic tenets of graphic design.
It's 1957, long before computers have replaced the trained eye and skillful hand. Our narrator at State U is determined to major in Art, and after several risible false starts, he ends up by accident in a new class called "Introduction to Graphic Design." Art 127 is taught by the enigmatic Winter Sorbeck, professor and guru (think Gary Cooper crossed with Darth Vader) -- equal parts genius, seducer, and sadist. Sorbeck is a bitter yet fascinating man whose assignments hurl his charges through a gauntlet of humiliation and heartache, shame and triumph, ego-bashing and enlightenment. Along the way, friendships are made and undone, jealousies simmer, the sexual tango weaves and dips.
As readers, we too are under Sorbeck's bizarre spell, spurred on by his demand: "Show me something I've never seen before and will never be able to forget-if you can do that, you can do anything." By the end of The Cheese Monkeys, the members of Art 127 will never see the world the same way again. And, thanks to Chip Kidd's insights into the secrets of graphic design, neither will you.
"Not only has Chip Kidd altered the face of publishing with his revolutionary book jackets, he has also written a really good debut novel (the bastard), and the big surprise is that the edgy, postmodern graphic designer who radicalized the way we look at the front of books is a pleasing, elegant traditionalist between covers. The Cheese Monkeys is a touching throwback: The story of an innocent young man's education, it has suspense, likable and vivid characters, a romantic, pitch-perfect re-creation of late '50s behavior and slang, and an effortlessly sustained comic charm throughout (and without curdling into cuteness -- not a simple achievement). I also can't remember the last time I read what is ostensibly a 'college' novel that actually taught me something." -- Bret Easton Ellis
After 15 years of designing more than 1,500 book jackets at Knopf for such authors as Michael Crichton and Anne Rice, Kidd comes out with a novel of his own, proving that the best way to learn a skill is on the job. Kidd has succeeded in crafting an affecting and entertaining work both slap-happily funny and heartbreakingly sad. The story concerns one nameless teenaged boy who's beginning his freshman year at a generic state university. In a bold step for 1957, our man has decided to major in art, a choice that leaves his roommates asking, "No kidding? As a career?" The semester begins, and he ends up in Introduction to Drawing, along with two hilarious characters who are key to the book's charm: a sweet-as-pecan-pie innocent named Maybelle Lee, and Himillsy Dodd, a radical pip of a girl fed up with art as an institution. The trio dutifully endure a bizarre curriculum that includes sketching an aging, nude custodian and capturing the essence of a cat being doused with water. But the real "fun" begins second semester, when our heroes enroll in Winter Sorbeck's Introduction to Graphic Design class and learn to look at art and life in a different light. Sorbeck challenges, frightens and bullies, making a drastic impact on his students' lives. Channeling Holden Caulfield via David Sedaris, Kidd produces a stellar debut. Oh, and what exactly is a Cheese Monkey? Readers will have to just ask Himillsy Dodd.
Never wanted it to end!!
Read this during my first year of graphic design! An absolute must after having your work beaten down by hard up profs.