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Posted October 19, 2009
Donald Schneider's Literary Reviews
*Inklings* is a memoir by a professional cartoonist, and it reads as such. The book traces the rise of Jeffrey Koterba, critically acclaimed editorial cartoonist, from a somewhat chaotic childhood in South Omaha to his present position with the *Omaha World-Herald*. Within Part One of the book, its most lengthy segment, Mr. Koterba recounts his early school years as a series of incidents that saliently traces his formative years and presents the ambience of his family life in the mid- to late sixties. The incidents resemble verbal photographs or, more appropriately, cartoon panels that at times border on caricature.
*Inklings* is most reminiscent of Betty Smith's thinly-veiled autobiographical novel *A Tree Grows in Brooklyn*, with Smith's metaphorical tree having been transplanted from early Twentieth Century New York to the Omaha of Mr. Koterba's narrative, albeit fertilized within a most decidedly less schmaltzy soil. Much like the father of Smith's tale, Arthur (Art) Koterba is a hard-drinking dreamer with a musical bent. He had been a big band era drummer who once backed the young Johnny Carson in clubs during the future talk show mogul's salad days as an itinerant magician. Art has been a devoted Carson fan ever since.
Art Koterba is a man with a mercurial temper, though not prone to violence. His occasional halfhearted attempts to discipline Jeffrey, his eldest child, with a belt strap never come to fruition. Art's not infrequent arguments with his wife are short-lived, though they sufficiently unsettle the six-year-old Jeffrey that he takes refuge in clutching and gazing through a prism he has discovered within his disorganized and cluttered house or by dreaming that he is floating upon the cloud of his father's bedtime story far away and above the domestic maelstrom he fears will engulf him. When he's somewhat older, he tries to defuse the domestic quarrels by preaching from the family's Catholic Bible....
As a personal memoir, Inklings is honest in the extreme as the author recounts personal incidents of an embarrassing nature: a childhood with too few friends and too many bullies engendered by what he would later come to realize was a then undiagnosed case of Tourette's Syndrome, an affliction shared with his father who could never bring himself to accept such a definitive diagnosis. From his heartfelt recounting of his reaction when he learns the truth concerning the circumstances of his birth, to the revelation that his problems with school bullies had only been eliminated by the physical intervention of his kid brother, the author spares himself little. In tandem with Mr. Koterba's well-chiseled wit, an aura of understated poignancy pervades the author's writing as he comes to terms with his past.
If *Inklings* were a novel, I would commend the author on his exquisitely drawn characterizations. Being nonfiction, however, one can only admire Mr. Koterba's ability and willingness to translate to others the warmth and vibrant feeling of flesh and blood via the coldness of the statical medium that is print. He manages to do so with a vitality that leaves the reader with a sense that he or she is almost as much a member of the Koterba family as is the author.
To read entire review: http://wwwdnschneidercom.xbuild.com/#/literary-reviews-152/4536147089
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Posted November 8, 2011
This author is fantastic!
I just finished reading this book and i have to say it was amazing. It showed a life of hard work and struggle and was written very well. I have to say the best book I have ever read.
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