Being a teenager, I have realized that reality needs some adjustments. It was the first time I found people around useless and incapable of understanding the complex mixture of feelings dwelling in me. I found salvation in teaching myself how to express ‘no’ as a part of speech and mostly within, not without. But Daniel Clowes did not seem to care much about censorship while writing “Ghost World”, one of the best graphic novels about adolescence and its mechanism of defense. Nor Terry Zwigoff did while directing the film adaptation with the same title. He actually enriched the story by adding “Lolita” plots, while Clowes only referred to individuals of the same age falling in love.
“Ghost World” belongs to the world of comics that deals with normal people leading normal lives. There are no superheroes and villains, crime, noir, fantasy or illusion. It stands for realism and reality. The story is based not only on Clowes’s experiences of growing up, but on everybody’s experiences. The feelings you get by reading it and then by connecting the imagery, the pacing, the dialogue and the characters’ gestures with your own memories of being a frustrated, misunderstood teenager can literally freak you out. At least it happened to me thinking that someone could be crawling noisily across my mind. This “action to action” novel involves not only some universal identification that shocks through its frankness and naturalness, but also a special language, so real in choice and tone.
“Ghost World” tells the story of Enid and Rebecca, two teenage friends who have just graduated from high-school and “are facing the unwelcome prospect of adulthood and the uncertain future of their complicated relationship”(Daniel Clowes about “Ghost World”). Enid’s capacity for sarcasm and scorn is unlimited. She spends a lot of time with her best friend, Becca, along whom she mocks the stupidity and the snobbery around. She is more like a teenage extremist, breaking the rules of communication and disobeying social norms but seems to be confused and undecided when it comes to her future plans or to her actual desires. Rebecca is her gentler friend. She likes to rebel against humanity as well, but eventually finds a job and settles down, trying to convince Enid that she’d rather do the same. While Enid’s definition of being, given by Josh Ellis, their common friend is that of someone who defies definition, Becca is the one who at least tolerates it and who doubts Enid’s behaviour somehow. Enid’s vocabulary is also rougher, more violent and always expressing a flush of anger. She seems to have an inclination towards hate and words like “fake”, “hate”, “fuck”, “lame shtick” and “to jerk off”. She constantly uses neologisms and pretentious words on the background of mockery in order to make her lines sound serious, causing her observation to become a matter of life and death. For example, when talking about boys, she says: “I hate all these obnoxious, extroverted, pseudo-bohemian art-school losers!” as if every boy in the world follows the same pattern. The more interesting is that Clowes places highlight on the “kind” words this character uses. Those bolded words, words like “care”, “handsome”, “romantic” are so hardly used that they need to be pointed out. The word itself tries to draw attention upon its content and form: “I am special and I am different!” which makes the reader understand there is a big compromise they make, both the character and the inner voice of the narrator.
The exception of this rule, of boys being pseudo-bohemian and so on, is Daniel Clowes himself. Enid tells Rebecca that the only human male she likes is the cartoonist. Taking advantage of her answer, Clowes inserts some details about his work, making use of metafiction and imposing on the novel.
Some critics said that “Ghost World” resembles “Catcher in the Rye” but for a later generation. Both follow the “coming of age” that...