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It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,676 ratings  ·  309 reviews
In his first graphic novel, It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken, Seth pays homage to the wit and sophistication of the magazine cartoon. Disaffected by the crassness of contemporary culture, Seth takes refuge in a quest to uncover the life and work of Kalo, a forgotten New Yorker cartoonist from the 1940s, but his obsession blinds him to his increasingly withdrawn lover ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published May 17th 2007 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  5,676 ratings  ·  309 reviews

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Sam Quixote
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I’ve heard that most people who read comics rarely read them every year of their life continuously unlike, say, “regular” books. The habit is patchy. Read comics for a year or two, maybe give them up for a few years, return later, etc. I can speak to the truth of that as I gave up comics from the end of high school to the end of university. Then I went and did something most people do in between high school and university and went on a gap year, travelling America for six months, Japan for the o ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
Seth is not a comic writer; he is a thwarted novelist. The graphics in this 'graphic novel' are incidental, as most of it is people walking down the street and having long, rambling conversations.

At one point the protagonist says 'Why do I waste my energy on this self-pitying, maudlin crap?'. That is exactly how I felt reading this navel-gazing whine of a first novel.
David Schaafsma
“It's a good world if you don't weaken.” ― Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

This book is a tribute to cartoonists and cartoon history. Seth, a historian of cartoons as well as a famous comic/graphic artist himself, writes this sweet book about an almost unheard of cartoonist from his native Canada he sort of obsesses about, a guy who did cartoons, struggled with it, gave it up. . . it's one of the best works of one of the greatest comics artists alive (that would be Seth, not the cartoonist he is wri
Nuno R.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably best understood by people who like to collect things, who get deep into geek culture (in terms of wanting to know everything about a certain author or character). Half way through it, I wondered why I was still reading it, since I cannot relate to a character that spends his time trying to know everything about an obscure cartoonist. And I thought, maybe this is an autobiographical account. It was (I only realized it at the end of the book).

The reason I read it is because the i
Hannah Garden
This is so masterful. The beginning, especially, I just find to be so utterly perfect. I was listening to a Comics Alternative interview with Noah Van Sciver this morning while drawing, and he mentions how he rereads this maybe once a year. I hadn’t read it since 2012 and was glad to be reminded of it.
Audie Bennett
May 27, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I liked the art and the meta about cartoons but Seth is insufferable and I couldn't have cared less about his man-angst. Gimme a break. I stopped reading it with about 12 pages left, couldn't even bring myself to finish it.
Maggie Gordon
Review cross-posted at:

It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken is a graphic novel that came highly recommended. If one searches “top graphic novel lists”, Seth’s piece is a common addition. Plus, it was one of Drawn and Quarterly’s bestselling books, and I usually love what this publishing company produces. Combined with the fact that the story takes place in Canada and deals with the coming of age of a disaffected twenty-something, I figured that this grap
Melania 🍒

It’s a nice little story
Lars Guthrie
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The New York Times Magazine section called ‘The Funny Pages,’ unfortunately no longer around, introduced me to Seth. So you can look at a complete work of his online and for free ( Fabulous.

It might be wise to take a look at ‘George Sprott,’ before delving into ‘It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken,’ just to test out your tolerance for Seth’s elegant portrayal of the quotidian. If you’re looking for action comics or dramatics, you are not likely to be s
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nostalgia-stricken cartoon curmudgeons
Shelves: memoir, comics

I've always liked the look of Seth's comics, but this is the first book of his I've read. I don't think it's the best introduction. Seth spends a lot of time in this comic worrying about whether his navel-gazing, obsessive and misanthropic tendencies make him a terrible bore and I'd have to say he has good reason to worry. I'm not a big fan of autobiographical comics for exactly this kind of neurotic self-indulgence. The fact that he's aware of it doesn't make him any more interesting as a subje
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I re-read this a few days ago, and I wanted to see what I had written about it. NOTHING! I never even gave it a rating! I'm shocked b/c I love this book. I love Seth's style, the blues and the greys and all the ciggarettes. I love how so much of the novel is introspective. My favorite part of the book is the first few pages, where Seth is walking though the snow and finds The Office Party at Book Brothers, then goes home and has the dialouge with his brother. I've read this book at least 10 time ...more
Got to agree that this was one of the most unappealing protagonists I've read. His total self involvement, misanthropy, myopic nostalgia, and general whinyness left me without any real empathy for his situation and obsessions.

This gets an extra star for the art, which I did enjoy. I really had a hard time with this one though.
Tom LA
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dreadful. Me, me, me. Like a teenager. Only, he is not. He’s an immature adult. The character’s obsession with a fictional cartoonist is nothing but a way to prove to himself that he is somehow different from anyone else and “special”, which is every teenager’s dream. And the author’s similar issues can be easily inferred from the book, which is in itself an odd onion - once you peel away the outside layers, you’re left with nothing.

Not even with the title, thrown out there with nonsensical “Un
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
Not being any kind of authority when it comes to graphic novels, I picked this one up for a gentle read after a long hectic stretch. Realising that the author is "local" was the deciding factor.

This is a nice little, what I assume to be somewhat autobiographical read with some pleasant drawing (please keep in mind I really would not know good from bad, but it is clean, crisp, and appealing to my untutored eye)

Throughout we are taken on the character Seth's journey to unearth the life story of an
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator reminds me of my best friend--a good-hearted, curmudgeonly aesthete born a couple decades too late. The well-drawn imagery supports an introspective narrative that explores misery and depression, family histories, creativity, the well-lived life, and the work of an obscure Canadian cartoonist-turned-realtor. A little too self-absorbed at times for my taste, but it is obvious to me why the editors of Comics Journal selected this as one of the 100 best comics of the 20th century.
Brent Legault
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I liked about this picto-novel: the polite sorrow, the broken nostalgia, the hats, the cats, the overcoats, the abject shab, the Ontarioioio, the angleture, the stilled snowdrops and most of all, the ice whites, chilled greys and vapo-rub blues.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seth has dedicated his cartooning career to finding or inventing obscure, old, sad, forgotten things and people. In this, his most well-known book, Seth investigates an obscure, midcentury Canadian cartoonist and produces a book that is, in direct refutation of Henry David Thoreau, a paean to a “life of quiet desperation.”
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nick Mount did a wonderful lecture on this novella through the Big Idea's podcast network on iTunes, and, either fortunately or unfortunately I chanced to listen to it before I cracked this book open. The setup Mount creates for this book is rather ostentatious, citing it as the 'best graphic novel around', referencing its many awards and literary status in the annals of Canadian literary culture. Perhaps, in my case, the gauntlet of these words weighed too heavily on my mind as I first dove int ...more
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
There's little sense to make a big production about this book, but it was a yawner. The artwork was decent: Simple, round characters drawn with blue, black, grey and white and clearly affected how the piece was received. So good job for that. But I'm easy to please with art, I'm more interested in the writing.

The problem then is that the writing is trite. Coming of age itself is a difficult theme to address in a fresh way, and this book suffers from what I think of as forced epiphany seen in the
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One review here at Goodreads describes Seth as "loathsome," and while that is a pretty strong word, I mean he is not an evil person, but I can see what they mean. I appreciate the courage of the unflattering self portrait, but I really enjoyed the portrayal of Chester Brown who puts up with Seth and is his friend. On the whole it is not much of a story, plot-wise, but I enjoyed the read, and the concept of a fan (short for fanatic) who obsesses over an unknown artists work!
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A touchingly nostalgic graphic novel drawn from the pages of Palookaville that focuses on Seth's search for the work of an obscure gag cartoonist known as Kalo who once had a cartoon published in The New Yorker.
Sophie Mullett
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In all honesty,I’m still not 100% sure what I saw in this graphic novel.I do know though that I couldn’t put it down.

It had a complete lacking of action and fantasy and oddly that put me at ease.Reading this seemed to immediately calm me down, sort of trapped me into the story.The plot overall was slightly lacking with the main concentration being a neurotic man going on a journey to find art pieces by a cartoon artist from many years back.With the mc,Seth meeting many different types of people
Meric Aksu
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pessoa & Allen was in it with the mood for "it's a wonderful life & high fidelity". ...more
I assumed I would really like this book since I loved "Clyde Fans," but I found this to be a bit of a slog. I found the main character so obnoxious and was continually tempted to yell out to his long-suffering friend, Chet, "Get away from this toxic douchebag!"
Firstly, I'll say that It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken has many good qualities. The novel, in both its words and pictures, has a very calming and contemplative mood. It's style is philosophical but down-to-earth.

The autobiographical story concerns Seth himself, searching for information about an obscure one-panel cartoonist of the 1940s and 50s. Along the way we meet his best friend, a fellow cartoonist, his brother, mother and a student with whom Seth undertakes a brief romance, before bre
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
This is another book I've read recently that really threw me off because of the immense praise it's received. I understand it to be somewhat of a modern classic in comics today. Seth's art is all over the place these days, and it's quite good. I particularly admire his design of Fantagraphics' collected Peanuts books. He's able to capture moods and sounds, tones in conversations... he's good. His work is clearly (as it's stated in the book) inspired by New Yorker cartoons, and it was interesting ...more
I liked the art and design, but it was difficult for me to enjoy this book, as it's an autobiography of a rather repellant person. He's a 30 year old who has renamed himself "Seth" (no last name) and has contempt for modern pop culture and affectations while dressing like Clark Kent and obsessing over slightly older pop culture. He's vaguely depressed for no apparant reason, and starts and ends a relationship that has nothing to do with the story.

I want to reach into the frames and shake him. I
Aug 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nan by: Luke at Kilgore Books
Okay, don't ask me why I picked up the book in the first place. Because the new bookstore on the block specializes in comics? I suppose. I also suppose that I never gave graphic novels or comics a chance, and I'm willing to try. And the cover appealed to me. I liked the colors, the homesick feel of the grays and blues. The cartooning world has always seemed to me the narrow world of lonely men. There was some of that in this collection -- Seth's mother, his geeky brother, the used bookstore owne ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book if you want to see the absolute limits an author's ego can reach. Lectures endlessly with nothing to say and expects you to follow the motivation of his whims without even trying to make them interesting. "I find this old cartoonist interesting, so you probably should too."

Seth mopes about being a cynic, giving himself lengthy monologues on the wrongs of the world, makes everyone around him a caricature of patheticness so he can tear them down and then seduces a girl by looking at
Swaroop Kanti
"If I met me, I'd hate me!"

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken: A Picture Novella is semi-autobiographical picture novella by Seth. This simple, minimalistic and well drawn graphic novel is about the active quest of Seth to find a long forgotten cartoonist 'Kalo'.

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken: A Picture Novella is also a classic example of how a simple graphic novel can be 'deep' and meaningful.
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Seth is the pen name of Gregory Gallant. Seth is the cartoonist behind the painfully infrequent comic book series PALOOKAVILLE. His novels, which have been translated into 8 languages, include IT'S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN, WIMBLEDON GREEN, CLYDE FANS BOOK ONE, and the illustrated memoir of his father, BANNOCK, BEANS AND BLACK TEA.

As a book designer, Seth has worked on a variety of projects

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Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people fall in love with books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts throug...
8 likes · 4 comments
“This business of 'kidding yourself' worries me. I don't even know how much self-deception I'm involved in. It's hard to get down to the truth about yourself. Any time I feel like I'm finally being honest with myself I wonder if there's some deeper truth I'm shying away from. It amazes me how I can know something and avoid it at the same time.” 11 likes
“I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of people. The fucked up good and the fucked up bad. You see, everybody's fucked up. Everybody has had traumas in their lives 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.” 7 likes
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