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Inside a Dog

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

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Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
Mary Ruefle

A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life - Yoshihiro Tatsumi I expected more from this, having been a huge fan of the author's collections of shorter pieces like "Abandon the Old in Tokyo." Here, each chapter is about the length of those shorter stories but the narrative often lacks any kind of energy.

Ach, will the hero publish with this manga house or that one? Well, a couple chapters of these kinds of dilemmas go a long way, but Tatsumi spends more than the necessary time in his 800ish pages putting his thinly veiled autobiographical stand-in through this scenario. That can be exciting to live and a compelling formative experience but nothing really seems to grow out if that. By the 700 page range, the hero, Katsumi (verrrry thinly veiled), is still having these same struggles and it's rather dull to hear about them yet again.

Worse still, in a gigantic tome dealing with manga history from one of those history makers, I wanted to see a lot more of the samples of the kind of manga being put out, both by the hero and his contemporaries. How are we supposed to sincerely get a sense of how Tatsumi's groundbreaking work broke ground if we can't see lots of it and how it changed and what it was up against? We see a lot of covers and some small samples, but it all feels so cursory.

We follow the hero from teenage years to middle-age and he's a decent enough sort, his physicality a mirror of Tatsumi's sad sack protagonists in his other manga titles. His friends are a lively crew and save for his manga wring brother his family are nearly non-entities. There's some good stuff with his ne'er do well father but unfortunately (for me) not enough. This is a manga history primarily, not an autobiography per se, so rapscallion parents who aren't big manga names get the short end of the inkbrush, so to speak.

The stories are neatly paced and devoid of the slapsticky elements most people associate with manga, perhaps Tatsumi's most lasting contribution to Japanese comics. The concerns are everyday ones, which is where the author's strength really lies despite his dreams of crafting an epic. This certainly isn't it, though it does possess the physical heft of an epic.