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The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semestersby Chip Kidd
Synopses & Reviews
From People Who Liked It
"It is rare for a book to produce uncontrollable laughter as loud as this one did. The narrator is at art college in the 1950s, and after failing to get the courses he wants, finds himself attending 'Introduction to Graphic Design,' taught by the inspiring, sadistic, and compelling Professor Winter Sorbeck. Through humiliation and excess he shows his naive young charges how to see the world through new eyes. This is a brilliantly entertaining debut — intelligent, pitch-perfect, and enlightening." The Times (London)
"This story about growing up and finding your calling is funny and, almost despite itself, moving. Here the big ideas — about growing, working, loving — are all inside." New York Times Book Review
"An irresistible comic voice that sounds so modern, and so right, even as it re-creates the undergraduate life of the late 1950s." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Channeling Holden Caulfield via David Sedaris, Kidd produces a stellar debut." Publishers Weekly
"A Joyride." Miami Herald
"Not only is [The Cheese Monkeys] sharp and funny, it's also one of the year's most original American novels." Toronto Globe and Mail
From People Who Didn't
"Retro kitsch. Thoroughly sophomoric." Entertainment Weekly
"The first section veers dangerously towards the predictable. Kidd has a way to go before his literary skills equal his artistic genius." Time Out (New York)
"[T]he book on graphic design that people have probably been urging Kidd to write....It has the feeling of an autobiographical novel....[The novel] is funny and, almost despite itself, moving. Usually, with Kidd designs, the big ideas are visible on the cover. Here the big ideas...are all inside." Thomas Hine, The New York Times Book Review
"A sharp, fast-paced, and well-packaged academic satire...this is a coming-of-age story from the point of view of the paying victim (a.k.a. the student)." Library Journal
"Thanks to The Cheese Monkeys, Chip Kidd's inimitable genius is no longer limited to visual art. Fans of his groundbreaking and highly inventive graphic designs will recognize the same wit, intelligence, and wry humor at work here in his fiction. Part coming-of-age story, part introduction to graphic design, this first novel is a wonderfully strange, deeply ironic, and always fascinating glimpse into the dark, secret workings of the creative mind and of the mysterious alchemy that sometimes spins the raw elements of talent, desire, astonishment, and desperation into gold." Laura Zigman, author of Animal Husbandry
"Chip Kidd has created in Winter Sorbeck and his vaunted course, Art 127, one of the most vivid, expert, hilarious, and strangely gripping accounts of what it means to learn how to see. If The Cheese Monkeys weren't so intelligent, rollicking, and downright entertaining, it would be chastening indeed to find that someone as visually gifted as Mr. Kidd also turned out to have considerable verbal plumage as well." David Rakoff, author of Fraud
"Art school in the 50's for the first and probably definitive time. This wise, funny and ragingly shrewd first novel explodes all the myths of academia and brilliantly builds its own. The world's greatest book-jacket designer finds a second spellbinding artistic voice." James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential
Kidd's novel is a witty, satirical take on academia, faculty art shows...and, of course, graphic design." Library Journal
"Kidd's book is at once quotably quippy...and unmistakably melancholy." San Francisco Chronicle
"Kidd's funhouse designs never fail to thrill. The same could be said of this unexpected, terrific novel by the designer himself....It's a pleasure to find that Kidd's writing is as meticulous and energized as his book jackets; still more a pleasure to discover in Kidd an irresistible comic voice that sounds so modern, and so right, even as it re-creates the undergraduate life of the late 1950s....The Cheese Monkeys is, we realize, a manifesto for design itself. But it's more, too, thanks to Kidd's knack for disarmingly left-field observations....Like the provocative Sorbeck, Kidd, in this comic gem, teaches us a thing or two about how to look at the world." Los Angeles Times
"Funny and innovative." Atlanta Journal and Constitution
This hilarious debut, set in 1957 at State U, follows the student narrator as he ends up in a graphic design class taught by Winter Sorbek — equal parts genius, seducer, and sadist. Along the way, friendships are made and undone, jealousies simmer, and sexual tangos weave and dip.
After 15 years of designing more than 1,500 book jackets at Knopf for such authors as Anne Rice and Michael Chrichton, Kidd has crafted an affecting an entertaining novel set at a state university in the late 1950s that is both slap-happily funny and heartbreakingly sad. The Cheese Monkeys is a college novel that takes place over a tightly written two semesters. The book is set in the late 1950s at State U, where the young narrator, has decided to major in art, much to his parents dismay. It is an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel which tells universally appealing stories of maturity, finding a calling in life, and being inspired by a loving, demanding, and highly eccentric teacher.
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.
About the Author
Chip Kidd was born in Reading, PA in 1964. He lives in New York City and Stonington, CT.
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