Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

I was walking through the library to kill time, and started to look in the graphic novel section. I saw the Ghost World movie a year or two ago, and decided the novel might be interesting. It is only 80 pages, so it made for a quick read.

Ghost World

Ghost World focuses on two girls who are past high school and pre-college who do pretty much whatever they please. I would say the ‘main’ character is Enid, who hates all men and pretty much everything else, too. The second character is Rebecca, the blonde on the cover, who sort of keeps Enid’s cynicism in check. They also have a few interesting side characters, like the clerk, John Ellis, their innocent friend Josh, and the creepy astrologer, Bob Skeetes, who comes to Enid’s garage sale for two hours and only buys a ten cent egg beater.

I get a strong cynical vibe from the story… possibly because Enid and Rebecca hate most everything they experience. One of the things they really find fascinating is a couple they see in a diner (Angel’s), whom they refer to as the Satanists. The only real friend the two have is Josh, an almost pure, innocent guy. They argue often over who should have sex with him, because they figure he is a virgin. The exploration of their friendship together and with Josh felt realistic and made the story richer.

I have been doing a project for one of my classes that involves looking at female friendships, and so this book was interesting. The novel looks really closely at what I think is a pretty typical friendship between girls. They like each other, but still worry that everyone likes the other one better. They keep secrets, gossip, contemplate the future, and do everything together.

I enjoyed the novel, partially due to the relatability of Enid and Rebecca — my good friend and I were similar to them in high school. There was a lot of tension in Ghost World, and I think this makes it rise above being a simple graphic novel. However, the characters make the plot hard to enjoy if you can’t appreciate being cynical.

I had to share one quote from the book that I really enjoyed:

“I wish I could just come up with one perfect look and stick with it… Like what if I bought some entire matching 1930’s wardrobe and wore that everyday… The trouble with that is you look really stupid and pretentious if you go a mall or a Taco Bell or something… And you have to act a certain way and drive an old car and everything and it’s a real pain in the ass!” – Enid

Ghost World Poster

Tagline: "Accentuate the negative"

From what I remember of the movie, the story was a lot more awkward because of the focus on the relationship between Enid and Bob Skeetes. Steve Buscemi plays a great Bob, but by playing the character well, the relationship is weird because of both the age difference and the social ineptitude of the characters. I’m a little glad the novel didn’t focus on this relationship… Bob Skeetes, although talked about a lot in the novel, was only shown a few times. This was not the case in the movie, as they created the character Seymour (I assume he takes the place of Bob) who has a major role in Enid’s life.

I will probably watch the film again to see if it kept the real spirit of the book. I think the most important thing was the female friendship, and I know the movie expanded on that at least a little.  Thora Birch (Enid) and Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca) play the parts pretty well, though the two characters’ personalities seemed more likable in the movie compared to the book. Personally, I liked the detachment in the novel compared to the sarcasm in the film. I will admit it made for a funnier story, though.

Overall, both the graphic novel and the film were a pretty interesting slice of life story that I think many people could relate to. I don’t think it hurts to be a little cynical, and this story takes advantage of (and maybe goes a bit past) that idea.

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