The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel In Two Semesters
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After 15 years of designing more than 1,500 book jackets at Knopf for such authors as Anne Rice and Michael Chrichton, Kidd has crafted an affecting an entertaining novel set at a state university in the late 1950s that is both slap-happily funny and heartbreakingly sad. The Cheese Monkeys is a college novel that takes place over a tightly written two semesters. The book is set in the late 1950s at State U, where the young narrator, has decided to major in art, much to his parents’ dismay. It is an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel which tells universally appealing stories of maturity, finding a calling in life, and being inspired by a loving, demanding, and highly eccentric teacher.
her left eye a slit. “May bell?” “Maybelle Lee.” “No.” “Yes. Right hand to God.” “What a riot.” Threw back another swallow. “So,” I said, between coughs, “are you a Sculpture major?” This put a wry smile on her face. “Was.” A small belch. “Pardon. Or as I called it: ‘Go Shit Nicely in the Corner,’ which was all they ever want you to do. And before that, Painting, or: ‘Pounding the Pigment.’ Preceded by Textiles. And at the beginning, Ceramics—AKA ‘Hi! My Name Is Mud!’ ” “And, have you—”
it's . . .” He pumped his fist rapidly up and down over his lap and started breathing in spasms. “. . . makin' ART.” My goodness. “Not that Design can't have . . . a look, a style — in fact it has to, even if the style is ‘no style’—but by definition, Design must always be in service to solving a problem, or it's not Design. I will not, so help me, ever attempt to define what Art is. But I know what it no longer is, and that's Graphic Design. “Now, as for Commercial Art, I could be crass and
declaration, he started to erase something. “The worm forgives the plow.” End of discussion. “Right.” Well, I tried. “See you at the opening tomorrow?” At last he raised his head. A terrible smile. “Wouldn't miss it.” • • • Turns out the Arts and Architecture Faculty Show, which I so airily dismissed before, was—to a small group of participants—of much graver importance than you could ever tell from just looking at it. It was a hierarchical checklist. A scorecard, for those who knew
had just let him out of jail and he was getting even by charging two dollars for a piece of charcoal that wouldn't grill a guinea pig. We took our places directly in front of the gray, coffin-sized pedestal, to get the best view. At nine a woman came through the door with a giant Boscov's white sale bag in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other, announcing, “Hello everybody, just call me Dottie!” Referring to a teacher by her first name was odd enough. A nickname seemed like nudity. Were
right. I walked towards where she was sitting. Nothing. Then I went for the door. “You can't, it's only a quarter after.” Maybelle plodded, delirious, ten paces back. Over on the other bench, actually there: Mike and the others, projects in hand. Waiting. No Himillsy, real or imagined. “What's he gonna do, throw me out?” I muttered. “Too late for that.” I pushed through, into the room. No Winter either. Not here yet. Hah. Just a manila envelope taped to the wall. A note on it—typed on A&A