1. The Cheese Monkeys – Chip Kidd
Art school in the fifties reminds me a lot of art school in the early ‘00s. The same people tend to show up (Daniel Clowe’s Art School Confidential confirms this as well). The crazy one who thinks everything they do is art and who bullshits their way through every single class much to the chagrin of everyone else, the technically proficient but heartless and thoughtless one, the one who is trying soooo hard but just can’t bloody draw, the one who never shows up, and the one who does just enough to graduate while attempting to get to a bit higher level concept-wise but really doesn’t have time. In general, I was a bit tired of the crazy girl Himillsy right off the bat. She is a necessary foil for the main character, he needed a serious kick in the ass, but she’s the type of character who reminds me of people who have desperately annoyed me in many situations. Ugh, so full of themselves and with so little knowledge to back it up.
There were many funny situations in this book based around the semi-insane teachings of Mr. Winter Sorbeck that will be familiar to anyone who has ever taken a studio course, especially anything conceptual. My favorite assignment of Sorbeck’s involved giving the students a marker and poster board, driving them to the middle of nowhere in winter, and telling them to get home. The idea of students coercing motorists into letting them hitchhike back to campus now is of course dangerous and absurd, but I loved how it worked in The Cheese Monkeys.
And I have to say that one of the things I wish still existed in colleges and universities is the fear and confusion that a professor can cause by giving the students an assignment and refusing to answer questions about it. Winter Sorbeck is the prototype for the professor who makes the grandiose statement and gives you an incomprehensible assignment and expects you, the student, to not only get it but also turn in something worthy of being graded. He’s not going to pass you because you turned something in or because you “worked hard” or because you paid to come to this class. He doesn’t care about that. He expects you to think and to do something worth his and everyone else’s time. I wish that when I graded papers I felt like people were actually taking the classes because of this love of learning they keep telling me about. Figuring things out is learning, handing in a partially-plagiarized piece and expecting me to look the other way because you paid tuition and worked hard googling your topic is not learning.