- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (July 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 189659770X
- ISBN-13: 978-1896597706
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken: A Picture Novella Paperback – July 1, 2003
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“[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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In reality this novella would serve as a manual for a psychiatrist to search the mind of one's desires, ambitions and the meaning of life. Well the meaning of life according to Seth. Just remember Seth intersperses real people such as Peter Arno and Charles Schulz along the likes of his fictional character of constant search in this story named Kalo. Seth bares all in this book which explains his later writings of "Clyde's Fans" and "George Sprott".
This is indeed a new way of utilizing the graphic novel format. Although I enjoyed his later works more than this work, it does serve as a basis of just who Seth really is. Five Stars!! No Problem!!!
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. The cartoonist who calls himself Seth is, coincidentally, Canadian.) When I closed the book, I realized that I wasn't even sure why he'd chosen that slightly altered line for his title. It doesn't even seem particularly appropriate, at least for Seth himself; he doesn't appear to be having an especially great, or good, life, and he doesn't come across as someone who refuses to weaken!
It gets better when the plot kicks in, but not all that much, unfortunately. There isn't much of a plot, but I can work with almost nothing, if done well. It is done well in some parts but left me wanting all the same. Just because it's autobiographic doesn't mean you can get away with just about anything. Far too navel-gazing to reach any sort of true communion. A cartoonist's obsession with another cartoonist, which is mostly a deviated obsession with himself.
I can't say I recommend it. I'd suggest Blankets a million times over this one.
The author also doesn't know how to spell "religious" and "whose".