#32 – Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth is a relatable long-running story about Jimmy Corrigan, a social inept middle-aged man who is lonely and doesn’t have much of a life. Perhaps you can’t relate to the character as a whole, but I promise that some elements of Jimmy’s personality or situation will hit home with you. Lots of us feel awkward when put into tight social situations, we have trouble dealing with people or we feel lonely.

Chris Ware certainly understands how this feels, given that his book is largely autobiographical. He chooses to tell several stories in the graphical novel series; middle-aged Jimmy’s first time meeting with his father, his adventures in his over-active imagination, the story of Jimmy’s grandfather and a plotline that shows Jimmy’s childhood, which is a stark contrast to his “smartest kid on earth” adventures. Here, Ware explains that Jimmy is the child of divorced parents, and this informs much of his real childhood rather than his imaginary one.

Jimmy Corrigan is a book that does everything at once – it is humorous, sad, emotional and full of life. The characters are real, the dialogue true to life, the relationships between the people in the book both affectionate and cruel. As a main character, Jimmy Corrigan is one of the best ever created in fiction. He is so deep, so full of pain and imagination, so hopeless that you can’t help but love him. He is the kind of character who you could write a book about yourself, so deep your understanding of him becomes.

If the meaningful plotlines and excellent characterisation aren’t enough to make you read this, then you might be interested to know that Jimmy Corrigan was the first ever graphic novel to win the Guardian First Book award back in 2001, so high was their critical acclaim of Ware’s work.

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