A Mouse Called Quimby

Quimby is an odd mouse. A volatile fellow. Sometimes he’s joyful—when he realizes he can fly like his favorite superhero, sometimes he’s mean—very mean in fact, often bashing in the head of his friend Sparky the Cat. And then there are the two crazy Quimbys, who share a pair of legs—are they Quimby and an imaginary twin, an alter ego? Who knows. They seem to have a mischievous time together until Quimby does his twin in. More times than not, however, we find the small ant-like rodent wandering through the world, his world, and through an empty house, despairing of a place in which he might fit. A lonely little guy with very few words.

That being said, there had been one person who had brightened Quimby’s day. His grandmother. Lying in bed he recalls that as a kid he’d wonder, “what it would be like after she was dead,” and now he says he can barely remember “what it was like when she was alive.” Every morning. “I forget another little piece of her.” He tries to grasp “a sense of her presence.” He goes downstairs and peers around the door into the kitchen, and reminisces about the lit candles his grandmother had once put on his cup and plate, and the way she would dance around and tell him stories from her childhood and marrying his grandfather—that would fill Quimby with the knowledge ‘life was worth living,’ that would make him want to be like her. For ten years he’s even kept her toaster oven, along with the piece of aluminum foil she had used to line the tray. He knows she would have disapproved of his cherishing the foil that way, of such sentimentality. One recent day, he confesses, he finally took the foil out. And staring at it, he couldn’t fathom why he had held on to it. He then convinced himself to crumple it up and toss it away. In bed again, he looks up at the ceiling, thinking, ‘Oh god why…why did I do that?’

“Every Morning” is a two-page comic from Chris Ware’s strips collected in Quimby the Mouse. Chris Ware—mainly known to non-comic book readers for his amazing and poignant graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan and for his New Yorker covers—drew Quimby in 1990-1991, when he was a student at the University of Texas. Now, much to his embarrassment. “Student Efforts,” he calls the mouse’s tales in the book’s introduction. He seems to be in agreement with Quimby’s grandmother, with little enthusiasm for sentiment. Nevertheless, in the introduction, we learn Ware created the Quimby strips in the period that his own grandmother was dying. He also writes, “Every week was a torment of my trying to do something that might mean something to a reader waiting to take a Calculus test and balancing the inevitable erasure of one of the most important people in my life.”

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(image from “Every Morning” reproduced for non-commercial use only, copyright C. Ware)


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