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Inklings Paperback – November 2, 2010
When Jeffrey Koterba was six, he started drawing his first cartoons, painstakingly copying from the Sunday Omaha World Herald'sfunny papers and making up his own characters. With a pen and a sheet of white paper, he was able to escape into a world that was clean, expansive, and comfortable--a refuge from the pandemonium surrounding him.
Amazon Exclusive: A Cartoon from author Jeffrey Koterba
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this honest memoir, Koterba, nationally syndicated political cartoonist and jazz musician, depicts a childhood burdened with both Tourette's syndrome and an eccentric, overbearing father. A failed musician, the older Koterba drank heavily and turned his frustrations on his family. He also had a part-time business repairing and selling televisions, which turned their Omaha, Neb., home into a Sanford and Son–style junkyard. Like his son, he suffered from Tourette's, which has a genetic component. The painfully shy Koterba struggled as a young man to escape the family chaos and follow his artistic inclinations. Koterba renders scenes of family dysfunction with an artist's feeling for nuance and detail. His psychic turmoil is portrayed with equal facility, and the junkyard house becomes a fearsome presence. However, the book lacks thematic unity. While Koterba offers a number of recurring themes—his Tourette's, the Apollo moonwalk, a journalist uncle killed in a plane crash—none of these receive enough focus to sustain the narrative. Yet Koterba's weakness is also his strength: the closeness to his material. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In my own career path, I read a lot of memoir and personal narrative. Inklings will stand as one of the most memorable books I read in 2013. Koterba achieves here what few memoirists do, and that is the point at which the writer manages to step outside of his own experience and look back at it objectively, portraying events as authentically as they actually occurred. Perhaps Koterba's skill at cartooning extrapolated into his skill at writing. Whatever the case, this is an honest, forthright, sincere offering that had me staying up late turning (clicking) pages. Beautifully done and highly recommended.
Koterba tells his story of growing up in a poor and dysfunctional family with Tourettes syndrome. He finds refuge in music and drawing; and is constantly seeking approval from a father who never gives it. He shows us his path to become a full-time cartoonist.
There were some things I liked about the book and other things I didn't. Koterba does a good job of telling the story from the point of view he would have had at that age. For example when he talks about what happened when he was six, he does it from a six year old's perspective. The strange things his dad does are all he knows; so the story doesn't seek pity from the reader rather it tells the story in an unbiased way. This changes as he gets older and starts to compare his family to other families. Some of the looks into his life at various times are fascinating, and at points, this memoir is more a nostalgic journey back into the seventies than anything else.
The above being said I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. It starts out slowly. A lot of time is given to his childhood and then as he gets older the story becomes less detailed and more disjointed. To be honest some of the childhood stuff is interesting, but some of it really drags on. I was also a little disturbed that early on he spends a ton of time talking about his family, but then when he has a family of his own they are mentioned infrequently as if they are only an afterthought to the story of his career. This was confusing because you would think his children and wife would shape his life just as much as his own mother and father did. He spends so much time talking about all the clubs he played at and cartooning jobs he took, that as a reader I felt like his own family (wife and children) really didn't matter all that much. This made me kind of sad, because I had hoped he would learn something from his own experiences growing up in a dysfunctional house.
All in all this book doesn't really teach anything. The author doesn't really come to any deep realization about his life, he just states the facts and lets you draw your own conclusions. The story itself pretty much just ends in the middle of things. All in all I found it kind of a depressing read. Maybe I would be more excited about it if I was a Koterba fan or knew more about him. I was also very disappointed that despite this book being about his life as a cartoonist, none of his cartoons are in here. It would have been nice to have at least a few of his cartoons in here for people unfamiliar with his work. Especially since most of the end of the book revolves around different pieces of work that he did for magazines/newspapers.
Overall it was an okay read. Some of it is interesting, but the disjointed way the memoir is presented makes it difficult to get into at times. I was also disappointed by the lack of any of his cartoons in the book itself, this was the main reason I wanted to review the book. I probably won't be checking out any more works by Koterba.
I am not one that usually reads memoirs, and although I did not walk away from this book feeling I had learned something new, I did enjoy the book and found it interesting along the way. What bothers me most is there is really no central theme for the book itself; it feels like he is telling us what had happened in his life and then moves on to the next story. A memoir, to me, should still read like a novel, where the characters and their actions still lead to some central point that the overall book is trying to make, but I felt like this was almost like reading diary entries along the years.
Try this one out if you are looking for a good, quick read when you want to try something a little new.