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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
i would have preferred each page a bit larger as on the copy delivered to me it is difficult to read the wordsPublished 8 months ago by ric
This is perhaps my favorite of Seth’s work that I have read recently. I have digested a lot of it - from his New Yorker Appearances to his New York Times appearances, to a recent... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Garrett Zecker
Seth is one of the best graphic novelists out there. His stories are interesting and his art is superb. If you like this one check out his book, "George Sprott."Published on September 8, 2013 by Luke Nye
Once again, here is a book I was initially attracted to by a great cover comprised of a fun but almost cringe-worthy title and the promise of great drawing, and I wasn't... Read morePublished on May 7, 2012 by Anne Salazar
I'm glad I got to read this graphic novella by Seth as the third work and not the first which I believe many have done. Read morePublished on July 24, 2009 by Richard C. Geschke
I checked out this book from my local library, after hearing it mentioned as a very well written graphic novel. Read morePublished on February 12, 2006 by Benjamin Swagerty