January 4, 2009

John's 1st Graphic Novel- Seth: It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken

Until Remi brought this book to my attention, I had thought it was just a Tragically Hip song. But when I found out it was first a graphic novel... er, picture novella... by some guy from Toronto who simply went by "Seth," it was enough to pique my interest. (According to Wikipedia, Seth borrowed it from a Maurice Chevalier song.)

So, when I joined up with the Graphic Novels Challenge, this one simply had to make my list. Not having ever read a graphic novel before I didn't know what to expect, but one look inside and I knew this wasn't it. With bold but minimalist lines (I'm no artist, so forgive me if I'm not describing this well), it wasn't the busy, grainy pictures I remembered from the few superhero comics I read as a kid. Likewise, there's no superhero action.

I also hadn't expected to be caught up in the words. The narration at the beginning, followed by the very realistic conversations when Seth (yes, he stars in his own book) visits with his mother and brother, is so engaging that I began to worry I wouldn't focus on the visuals at all!

Slowly but surely the artistry got to me. It's amazing how well he was able to set a mood with a few subtle shadows. Entirely wordless pages seemed as integral to the plot as the dialogue:

It's odd that such a slow-paced, sometimes depressing book, would engage me as much as it did (maybe he should illustrate a couple Alice Munro books for me). Perhaps the self-awareness won me over (at one point Seth even refers to his inclination towards "navel gazing"). Or, more likely, I was taken in with the irony. Seth is portrayed as someone never quite comfortable living in the now, someone nostalgic for a time before he even existed. Yet, for all that, the present-day Toronto seems drawn in such a fond, nostalgic light. If there's any message to be taken away, it's that a life is most beautiful when you appreciate the flaws.

(Cross-posted at The Book Mine Set)


Unknown said...

Wow, that artwork looks great. I'm going to have to add this one. Thanks for the review!

Beth F said...

Great review! And I agree that the artwork is super.

Olga said...

Sounds lovely. Thank you for reviewing it. I've never heard of it up until your post, and now I want to track it down. As a native Torontonian, I love reading about my hometown. And I especially love graphic novels that not just tell a story but are visually interesting as well. That's the whole point of a graphic novel, as far as I can tell--to show the reader the story, through the pictures and the words. Great review, John.