Friday, January 22, 2010

Inklings: A Memoir by Jeffrey Koterba (3/5 stars)

I got this book as an advanced reading copy through the Amazon Vine program. I have heard of Koterba before but wasn't very familiar with his work. I thought that a Memoir of a cartoonist would be fun to read and it was an okay read, but not fun.

Koterba tells his story of growing up in a poor and dysfunctional family with Tourettes syndrome. He finds refuge in music and drawing; and is constantly seeking approval from a father who never gives it. He shows us his path to become a full-time cartoonist.

There were some things I liked about the book and other things I didn't. Koterba does a good job of telling the story from the point of view he would have had at that age. For example when he talks about what happened when he was six, he does it from a six year old's perspective. The strange things his dad does are all he knows; so the story doesn't seek pity from the reader rather it tells the story in an unbiased way. This changes as he gets older and starts to compare his family to other families. Some of the looks into his life at various times are fascinating, and at points, this memoir is more a nostalgic journey back into the seventies than anything else.

The above being said I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. It starts out slowly. A lot of time is given to his childhood and then as he gets older the story becomes less detailed and more disjointed. To be honest some of the childhood stuff is interesting, but some of it really drags on. I was also a little disturbed that early on he spends a ton of time talking about his family, but then when he has a family of his own they are mentioned infrequently as if they are only an afterthought to the story of his career. This was confusing because you would think his children and wife would shape his life just as much as his own mother and father did. He spends so much time talking about all the clubs he played at and cartooning jobs he took, that as a reader I felt like his own family (wife and children) really didn't matter all that much. This made me kind of sad, because I had hoped he would learn something from his own experiences growing up in a dysfunctional house.

All in all this book doesn't really teach anything. The author doesn't really come to any deep realization about his life, he just states the facts and lets you draw your own conclusions. The story itself pretty much just ends in the middle of things. All in all I found it kind of a depressing read. Maybe I would be more excited about it if I was a Koterba fan or knew more about him. I was also very disappointed that despite this book being about his life as a cartoonist, none of his cartoons are in here. It would have been nice to have at least a few of his cartoons in here for people unfamiliar with his work. Especially since most of the end of the book revolves around different pieces of work that he did for magazines/newspapers.

Overall it was an okay read. Some of it is interesting, but the disjointed way the memoir is presented makes it difficult to get into at times. I was also disappointed by the lack of any of his cartoons in the book itself, this was the main reason I wanted to review the book. I probably won't be checking out any more works by Koterba.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge


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