Blankets by Craig Thompson review – one of the best graphic novels of all time

This touching, passionate account of growing up in the American midwest is officially released for the first time in the UK

Blankets has been garlanded with praise since its publication in 2003, winning an Eisner award and regularly featuring in lists of the best graphic novels of all time. But Thompson’s autobiographical tale of family life and young love in the American midwest has never before received an official UK release. First-time readers expecting an instant showstopper may wind up disappointed: the book unspools gradually over 600 black-and-white pages as young Craig negotiates life, sharing blankets unwillingly with his younger brother and reverently with his girlfriend Raina. It’s a childhood cloaked in snow, in which money is ever tight and Christ ever present, and school is a hostile place. The dialogue can be clunky, but Thompson has a great eye for the moment, and the pages fly by as Craig ...

The White Review Anthology review – bold literary collection

A rewarding mixture of short stories, reportage, photography and criticism from the periodical

Seven years ago a New York intern and a London journalist drunkenly decided to launch a literary periodical “unconstrained by form, subject or genre”. The White Review is now on its 20th issue, and celebrates this milestone with a frequently thrilling anthology mixing short stories, reportage, photography and literary criticism. The latter is perhaps the weakest strand, although Lauren Elkin turns a crisis of confidence into an illuminating exploration of feminist writing. The journalism is great fun – Patrick Langley and Alexander Christie-Miller paint precious pictures of the respective transformations wrought by development in London’s once booming, now ghostly Silvertown and in Turkey’s Pontus, where a people shaped by falconry and the tea trade overlook the lifeless depths of the Black Sea. The fiction ranges far and wide. China Miéville tells of urban pyromancy, Claire Louise-Bennett spins a ...

Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal review – a symphony of human drama

There’s tremendous energy in this novel about the building of a California bridge from the Wellcome prize winnerSome structures are so grand and defining that it’s hard to imagine they haven’t always been there. But as Wellcome prize-winner Kerangal shows in her striking 2010 novel, translated by Jessica Moore, the bigger the project, the bigger the story. Her setting is Coca, a fictional California city that sits beside a vast river, “a long golden cobra lazing and wild, lying curved like a trigger across an entire continent”. Few locals seem to need a new crossing, but ambition and money talk, and plans are made for a suspension bridge 6,200ft long and 100ft wide that will put Coca on the map. The result is a feverish coming together of men, women and technology as project managers, construction workers and hangers-on swarm, and great machines tear the earth and inch their ...

Pantheon by Hamish Steele review – meet the Egyptian gods

Savage, bawdy, irreverent and uproariously funny, this graphic novel has moments of grandeur and insight that make it educational as well as entertaining As the treatments of Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in Russ Kick’s inspiring The Graphic Canon showed, the strangeness and brutality of ancient myth can work surprisingly well in comic-book form. Illustrator Hamish Steele’s tale of the Egyptian gods is another fine example of the genre. Pantheon begins with the world’s creation by a mysterious aquatic pyramid, but its main subject is the struggle for Egypt’s throne after weary sun god Ra leaves the Earth to Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. The resulting action is savage, bawdy and often uproariously funny, full of trickery, sex, revenge and rebirth. Steele knows his stuff, but Pantheon is certainly not reverent: pastiches of Mrs Doubtfire and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? sit alongside decidedly contemporary dialogue (“Husband, don’t ...

Pantheon by Hamish Steele review – meet the Egyptian gods

Savage, bawdy, irreverent and uproariously funny, this graphic novel has moments of grandeur and insight that make it educational as well as entertaining As the treatments of Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in Russ Kick’s inspiring The Graphic Canon showed, the strangeness and brutality of ancient myth can work surprisingly well in comic-book form. Illustrator Hamish Steele’s tale of the Egyptian gods is another fine example of the genre. Pantheon begins with the world’s creation by a mysterious aquatic pyramid, but its main subject is the struggle for Egypt’s throne after weary sun god Ra leaves the Earth to Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. The resulting action is savage, bawdy and often uproariously funny, full of trickery, sex, revenge and rebirth. Steele knows his stuff, but Pantheon is certainly not reverent: pastiches of Mrs Doubtfire and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? sit alongside decidedly contemporary dialogue (“Husband, don’t ...

Collecting Sticks by Joe Decie review – a warts-and-all tale of glamping

An affectionate graphic novel debut that captures perfectly the in-jokes, nonsensical conversations, even boredom of a family weekend away
A family – organised mum, boyish dad and quirky child – turn their backs on social media and city life to go glamping. It could be the set-up for a multivitamin ad, but Joe Decie’s first graphic novel is a low-key ode to the precious little nothings of family life. This is a warts-and-all vision of the weekend away – alarms are missed, directions mangled, fires don’t start and bedtimes lead to insomnia. Other than these small calamities – and a very British downpour – there’s not much to report. The trio make it to their woodland hut, wander around gathering sticks and climbing trees, go to the pub and walk along a stark beach before it’s time to go home again. But Decie is a fine chronicler of life ...

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran review – spiky, funny and passionate

Whether she’s slamming inequality or bounding around the Olympics, there’s a lovely energy to this collection of newspaper columns Collections of newspaper columns tend to be better to flick through than read – hobby horses are fine if just a few, but a whole herd can put you off. Moran has been a columnist since she was 18 and is now negotiating middle age (in what seems like cheerfully disgraceful fashion) and minor celebrity (thanks to a prodigious Twitter following and the bestselling How to Be a Woman). There are certainly repeat topics in her recent writing – you’ll learn several times that Moran likes David Bowie and talking to gay men while drunk, and dislikes blithe politicians and Piers Morgan. Subjects such as hangovers or malfunctioning printers are obvious enough to merit little beyond a shrug of recognition. But a lovely energy flows through the book, whether she ...