It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken is my fifth book read for the #TBR20 Project!
Before I go on any further, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the inspiration behind reading this book…thanks to my blogger friend, Aaron from KeepsMeAlive, and a recent blogpost he did on the Tragically Hip song that shares the very title of this graphic novel, I wouldn’t have thought to pull this one off the shelf so quickly. So, thanks for the inspiration, Aaron!
I didn’t expect to get through another #TBR20 book so quickly after finishing my last novel, but when I curl up to read a good book with a spot of peach tea and soon find that the evening has faded as I turn to the last page, that to me is a great sign of a good book.
I have no recollection of where I picked up my copy of It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, but likely it was on a Boxing Day sale a few years ago, which is about the only time of year – once a year – when my book-buying moratorium lifts. Initially, it was the cover art that attracted me. Then, it was the book title that mirrors a Tragically Hip song’s title that drew me in! Hold the phone…this wouldn’t happen to be a graphic novel about the Hip, would it??
Alas, it is not about Gordie and the boys… but now that I finished reading It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, I am not the least bit disappointed that it isn’t.
The story is actually about Seth, a cartoonist and collector from Toronto, who goes on a search to find drawings by an obscure cartoonist, Kalo, whom he feels was his canon cartoonist. Kalo, or Jack Kalloway, had a few of his works published in the New Yorker and Esquire magazines in the 1950s. Seth, an obsessive collector, saught to find more on Kalo – any more published works, as well as any information on whatever became of him.
Seth, for one, is mired in nostalgia, preferring the past to the future, and feeling uneasy in the present. He frequently talks to his best friend, Chet (cartoonist, Chester Brown, of Louis Riel fame) about his neuroses, and gives hints to the reader that he may be experiencing some depression. Throughout the book, we follow him as he travels solo to his childhood town of Strathroy, Ontario – coincidentally the same town Kalo moved to after a brief spell in New York, to pursue a different career path, get married and raise a family. Seth managed to track down Kalo’s daughter, Susan, through whom Seth finds out what became of Kalo. Seth also discovers some lessons on maturity in Kalo’s history: the dignity in making choices, experiencing failures, and building strength in self to accept it all.
Seth’s self-proclaimed Picture-Novella, plays out like a graphic screenplay. Every cell is meticulously drawn as if the reader is watching a movie of Seth’s experiences. He’ll hone in on one thing that is seemingly random, but yet, brings you right there on the streets of Strathroy. His masterpiece also extends to London, Ontario and Toronto; and there are certain locations from these cities some readers would recognize, such as the London train station and the Royal Ontario Museum.
It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken will suck you in from the first page. Be prepared for a great story…and some self-reflection.
The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.