Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded, and maybe you'd like to think about reading them as well. This time, a review of It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken (Drawn & Quarterly, 1996).

Since I've been known to rave about Seth's wonderful comics and book designs around these parts, I figured I should probably look into some of his earlier material. It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken was originally published in the 1990s, serialized in his occasionally-appearing comic Palookaville, and it's been whispering "buy me" for years. I finally picked up a copy in Toronto on my honeymoon earlier this summer; it sort of cries out to be bought in Canada.

It's a quasi-autobiography in which Seth lets a promising relationship with a cute student fall apart while he's focussed on an archaeological quest for an obscure gag cartoonist called Kalo. None of this really happened in the real world the way it's portrayed here - there never was a Kalo, neither in the pages of The New Yorker nor anywhere else - but it doesn't really matter. It strikes me as entirely possible that Seth's consuming desire to investigate fictional histories of might-have-beens like Kalo, Wimbledon Green and George Sprott could have cost him a present-day relationship or two over the years.

It's very interesting to see how Seth's style has developed over the years. His lines are thinner, and his anatomy is off, but the gorgeous, muted, single-color approach and his use of lengthy montages of establishing shots are present early on. It's a vibrant, sad and lovely work, and I'm glad I finally bought a copy. Recommended for older readers.

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