It’s a Good Life, if You Don’t Weaken

08May10

Catching up with an original, sincere and acclaimed 1996 Canadian graphic novel in 2010 is better late than never, I guess. Written and illustrated by Seth, It’s a Good Life, if You Don’t Weaken takes its title from the old song by Maurice Chevalier(the author comments he often heard his mother repeating the line) though I’d swear it’s a line in a Graham Greene novel somewhere too.

The plot is a fairly straightforward one involving a character who loves old things, finding dignity in older styles of clothing and architecture even if the buildings are crumbling, which either means he’s somewhat displaced in time or the rest of us moved on in a way we shouldn’t have. I’ve certainly made my own feelings about development in Toronto clear. Aside from pursuing a romantic relationship, the character tries to piece together the life of an old cartoonist and his career in art. On a deeper level, it’s about the search for a meaningful place in the world, and to a certain extent the almost random things we leave behind. Our central character in this “picture-novella” is able to find only eleven cartoons by the artist that fascinates him.

Whatever you get from the book, it’s enough for it to be thoughtful, sad and beautiful. Maybe art is sometimes just about applying the brakes, looking to the past, and questioning the almost relentless way we change these days. At times, the illustrations are seemingly without purpose, except as something the character sees, or something Seth wanted to include, and all this adds a meditative quality.

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