Carnet de Voyage is Craig Thompson’s illustrated travelogue/travel journal over two months visiting France, Spain, and Morocco. He was partly doing research for his upcoming book Habibi (which I’m very much looking forward to) and partly on tour for international releases of Blankets. He warns up front that the book is a bit self-indulgent and that he doesn’t think it’s terribly well-done. Apparently he was rushed for time by the end, with a time limit and a page limit.
There is no real story to this book. Thompson travels, his hand hurts from all the signing and drawing, he gets sick a lot, especially in Morocco, and he’s homesick and lonely. Honestly, I agree with him – it is a bit self-indulgent. I guess I was just expecting more from this. I don’t know. Most of the drawing was absolutely beautiful, exactly what I’d expect from Thompson. That wasn’t disappointing. It was when he did more writing than drawing, and when he became obsessive about the grosser parts of illness, that I lost interest.
I liked the full-page drawings, the simplicity of them, the genuine seeing of the things around him, and liked less the self-centered pages of whining. I understand that it’s hard to travel, and especially to travel alone. But after awhile you have to get over yourself, and at times I lost patience, especially when Thompson was in Morocco. That was the part I was most interested in, wanting to really see Morocco come alive. That showed up in some places, but he spent most of his time there talking about how horrible all the native people were. I have no doubt many of the people he encountered were horrible, but the generalizations kind of put a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m not sorry I read Carnet. It was an interesting read and like I said, there were some beautiful drawings in it. I think I just wanted more from it, more insight into the things he saw, maybe. More like what I got in French Milk. But I guess when you’re doing a combination of research and touring on a crippled hand and an injured foot, maybe you’re not in the best headspace to be terribly insightful. This book in no way lessened my love for Thompson’s work, and I’m still very much looking forward to Habibi, but I don’t really recommend Carnet.