“I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of people. The fucked up good and the fucked up bad.”
(Soundtrack: The Amps– Pacer)
I read Seth’s It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken a few days ago, and I quite liked it…
Unfortunately, since I then proceeded to read this:
am now immersed in this:
and expect to read this very soon:
I’m not really in the best frame of mind to give Seth his due. He is no, I say, no Dave Sim–as good as Will Eisner, that is…
Which doesn’t mean his book isn’t worth discussing. It certainly is!
The title for this post comes from page 129 of IAGLIYDW. The words are spoken by “Seth” himself, in conversation with his friend “Chet”. The rest of the observation goes like this:
You see. Everybody’s fucked up. Everybody has had traumas in their life to deal with. With most people these traumas mess them up inside…but a few people they come through even better adjusted somehow… I mean they haven’t developed damaging emotional problems… I envy you Chet… I’m not one of the lucky ones…
This is hardcore Calvinism (minus God) in modern dress–and, obviously, I can get behind that! But where do we go from there? I can really empathize with Seth’s sense of being “out of phase” with the present, his “nostalgia issues”–obsession with old New Yorker cartoonists, preference for “old-fashioned” values and costumes, tendency to turn any place he visited in the past into a shrine. This is just a way to graft an existential problem onto world history… The real trouble is–despite the fact that memory is a real place, no one has ever found a way to get there!
So “Seth” (and Seth) muddles along through beautiful drawings, groping for the ineffable, until he (& we) stumbles across THE (dual) MESSAGE (voiced by the wizened old remnants of Kalo’s world): “When you get to my age, you realize that everything mattered” (155)/ “A little misery is good for the soul” (163). Now, I agree with this stuff too! And I can readily believe that the eye responsible for this blue-shadowed world is as compassionate/sharp as anyone could want–otherwise we wouldn’t have these panels…
But where’s the trauma?
This is the first extended look that I’ve taken at any of Seth’s work–so maybe I’m being unfair and “the eye of the storm” is elsewhere, but, as a self-contained narrative, IAGLIYDW just doesn’t do it for me. You can’t just assume that readers are going to nod and say, “yeah man, trauma… I been there dude, no need to show us none o’ that!” I don’t know–am I asking for too much? Or something too strange? Personally, I can’t begin to consider a work of art “great” unless it conveys some sense of crisis. No wonder this guy’s fixated upon the American Renaissance, right? Yeah, I guess… However, it seems to me that Seth is living off of the interest generated by the “misery”, without providing ANY of the emotional “capital” that makes “everything meaningful”–and that’s cheating! I’m certainly open to reading more Seth. Can anyone tell me if he presents a more complete picture elsewhere? Please let me know!
On a (sort of) related note: There have been a few sales of my novel Darkling I Listen through Amazon lately! Since everyone I know in the flesh already bought one quite some time ago, I have to assume that this new action is owing to the blog! Thanks friends! Whomever you are!
“Unorthodox Economic Revenge!”