It’s that comma in the title, don’t you see? It’s grammatically unnecessary, but it’s inclusion seems to hearken to an older, by-gone time. Which is a key theme in Seth’s marvelous It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, a collection of stories from his Palookaville comic books.
Much of this semi-autobiographical tale follows the always-melancholic cartoonist as he visits his mother (to whom the title is attributed, as an often-spoken comment) and brother, rides trains, wonders about past girl friends, borrows money, walks a lot thinking deep thoughts about old cartoons and Canada, and, mostly, tries to track down information about a deceased cartoonist who worked in the 1940s and ’50s under the name of Kalo.
The great conceit about the book is Kalo is fictional — even though Seth has included not only samples of the cartoonist’s work culled from during his supposed rise and fall, from magazines as varied as The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire and Gee-Whiz, as well as an actual 1940s-era photo of the artist leaning against a building somewhere in Manhattan.
All of which gives Seth, as a working cartoonist himself, much to contemplate: How do we know when we’re at our peak? And how to we handle what comes later?
More to come.