The Cheese Monkeys

Chip Kidd

“I thought that to heal my hurt, I should flee to the wild. It is what people did. The nature books I'd read told me so. So many had been quests inspired by grief or sadness.”

It's a not-to-deep secret that every Art student wants to learn from that teacher. The teacher who makes students stand on their desks, breaks the rules and dismisses unworthy students with a flick of her wrist. There's a Romantic quality to having a firebrand teacher who overwhelms your senses and breaks the molds, a crucial moment in your transformation into an Artist.

In The Cheesemonkeys, noted book designer and illustrator Chip Kidd spins a story about that first year of being an art student, meeting both The Teacher and The Girl. I use the proper noun form to describe these characters because they embody their respective tropes almost exclusively. Boy meets a girl who loves by her own rules, goes where she's not supposed to and drags him around like a lovesick puppy.

Unable to gain access to the painting classes, our protagonist has to enroll in a graphic design course where we encounter The Teacher. This book was given to me because of it's graphic design content, which is actually quite good. The teacher is Winter Sorbeck, a man with strong beliefs about the power and responsibility of design in the modern world. His lessons are a little hardline for my tastes but they make up the most compelling part of the novel.

Unfortunately, everything that doesn't happen in the class is disconnected and superfluous. Any of the potentially interesting events outside are just left like loose strings. For instance, the book is set in the 1950s, but you would have no idea if it wasn't explicitly stated. There's a number of details and asides like this that have no bearing on a central storyline. We hear about a lot of things happening around the protagonist and then we collide with the back cover and the book is over.


288 pages
Published 2002
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