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It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken: A Picture Novella Paperback – July 1, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Seth] invites the reader to linger cozily in his ruminative, patient stories, each of which grows from Seth's obsession with the past.” ―The Village Voice

“Rich, evocative...characterized by small moments revealing the author's sharp eye for detail” ―The Globe and Mail

About the Author

Seth was born in 1962 in a rural Ontario town. Seth lives in Guelph, Ontario with five cats, a gigantic collection of vintage records, comic books, and 20th century Canadiana, and his very patient wife. He regularly contributes illustrations to The New Yorker and the National Post and recently provided the entire album artwork for Sony records singer-songwriter, Aimee Mann.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189659770X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896597706
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the 1990s, many non-superhero comics were autobiographical. Cartoonists told their own stories, revealing the details of their mundane habits, obsessions, love lives, and their work. Seth did it, too, in the second half of the decade, and his story is one of the most elegant and honest.
Taking his obsession with gag cartoons and newspaper strips as a jumping-off point, Seth tells his story about looking for meaning in a rapidly changing world. You get the sense that he's worried about being pretentious (or boring), so he spices things up with conversations with his friend Chester, dating a cute brunette, visiting his mother and brother, ice skating, and smoking lots of cigarettes. There's some travel and a little detective work, too.
The images are not always tied to Seth's thoughtful narration. At times, he gives you landscapes to look at while he writes about his life. This could be disorienting, but it works very well. The words and images create an emotional effect that wouldn't exist if he narrated what you were looking at. His style is a personal variation on gag cartoons from the middle of the century, which turns out to be the perfect style for Canadian cities and suburbs.
If you're looking for something special --- maybe you want to read non-superhero comics, or you want a short novel with a twist to it --- try this book. It's perfectly suited for adults who feel a little out of place in the world.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have read Joe Matt's incredible confession "Peep Show", you might remember his friend Seth's words "I'm working on an autobiographical comic book, but it's not finished yet...". Now here comes the comic, but in a very different style from Joe's (so Joe had no need to feel like part of some insidious TREND).
The story traces the life of an old cartoonist Kalo, and it wraps over Seth's own life. The drawing touch of the cartoons in good old era also wrap over Seth's style. We can see the trace of Kalo and old cartoonists not only in the story, but on Seth's joyful drawing touch on rain, trains, trees, hairs, wires, a kite, a bog roll, and even the smoke of cigarette. This comic is about how our thoughts move when we draw lines. Don't stick at a single frame or single sentiment in the depressed monologue. Feel how the sequence of frames and lines are traveling with the sentiment traveling, and you can notice here is a new way of travelogue.
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Format: Paperback
What's most likable about this graphic novel's protagonist and narrator is that he's something of a self-lacerating, depressed, oversensitive, melancholy soul, a true negative-thinker -- the sort of constantly gloomy, soliloquizing character who might ultimately prove exasperating to hang around with but whom I found refreshing and sort of appealing, at least in a world of comic-book superheroes. He gives the narrative its thoughtful, intelligent, somewhat troubled voice.

But the narrative itself is awfully negligible -- mainly just the narrator's inexplicable and not-terribly-consuming obsession, over the years, with a deservedly obscure Canadian cartoonist of the past -- and there's no particular suspense involved, no colorful characters, no vivid scenes, no surprises, and no payoff. I read the book (as of course one does) at a single sitting and came away feeling pretty unsatisfied.

I didn't even care much for Seth's graphic style. I grew up on those same New Yorker albums that he dotes on, and compared to that pantheon of cartoonists, Seth's artwork seems exceedingly grey and bland, especially because all the pages in this book are printed in black and white highlighted with the same tepid textbook-blue wash, which gets a little tiresome. (However, none of that blue mars the front cover. It's handsome and atmospheric, as you can see.)

What had first led me to the book, oddly enough, was an online search for the origin of the saying "It's a great life if you don't weaken" -- something my father used to say, and which I gather was popular in his World War II generation. (The Net traces that line to Scottish novelist John Buchan, of "Thirty-Nine Steps" fame, who at one time served as governor general of Canada.
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By A Customer on October 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Seth is one of my favorite comic artists today. He manages to combine a distinctly personal drawing style with an involving and timely storyline, in this series about a man (based on himself, presumably) who loathes the post-modern and seeks out the past through a 1950s New Yorker cartoon artist, whose work is an inspiration and source of joy. That's the basic plotline, but the story also involves the reader in the main character's personal thoughts and his relationships, how they sometimes lead to a life lived by his convictions, but often alone.
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Format: Paperback
One thing that all readers should know about me is that though I love graphic novels, I am extremely picky. However, this graphic novel was perfection! It tells the story of Seth who is depressed and feels lost in the world until he discovers an obscure cartoonist named Kalo. Though there is little information on this man, Seth decides to devote years of his life to discovering the man's true identity. He even goes as far as to find Kalo's house in a small town and visits the man's family. As he does so, he also returns home to his mother and brother and find himself traveling to his childhood house. Though this is far from being a "coming of age tale" (I hate that phrase), Seth certainly does develop throughout the story. His search does not change his identity, but it does help him understand himself better.

Though the book is set in Canada, I felt that the scenes were familiar and could be found in any country. The pictures are drawn in shade of blue and black that help illustrate the dark and depressed mood of Seth. There are also numerous drawings of houses, landscapes, and cityscapes. I found these to be incredibly interesting. In many graphic novels, I feel as if the artist uses landscapes as filler pictures for when the action is stopped. However, in this book, I felt as if drawings of these scenes were photographs of the setting. Many were bleak or lonely which, of course, reitterated Seth's view of the world.

In many graphic novels, the art will override the text. However, this book was superb in the exquisite blending of the two. Seth's observations were philosophical and I felt that they pertained to all people at any point in life. His conversations with his friend Chet, were also enlightening to his character as well to how people interact in a friendship.
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