Inklings

( 2 )

Overview

At age six, Jeffrey Koterba began drawing cartoons, creating with ink and white paper a clean, expansive refuge from the pandemonium surrounding him.
 
The Koterba household was filled floor-to-ceiling with second-hand TVs and garage-sale treasures his father, Art, fixed and sold for extra money. A hard-drinking ex-jazz drummer whose big dreams never panned out, Art was subject to violent facial and vocal...

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Inklings

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Overview

At age six, Jeffrey Koterba began drawing cartoons, creating with ink and white paper a clean, expansive refuge from the pandemonium surrounding him.
 
The Koterba household was filled floor-to-ceiling with second-hand TVs and garage-sale treasures his father, Art, fixed and sold for extra money. A hard-drinking ex-jazz drummer whose big dreams never panned out, Art was subject to violent facial and vocal tics—symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome, a condition Jeffrey inherited—as well as explosions of temper and eccentricity that kept the Koterba family teetering on the brink of disaster.
 
From the canyons of busted electronics, the lightning strikes, screaming matches, and discouragements great and small emerged a young man determined to follow his creative spirit to grand heights. And much to his surprise, he found himself on a journey back to his family and the father he once longed to escape. Inklings is an exuberant, heart-felt memoir infused with a uniquely irresistible optimism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A powerful and moving portrait of an artist."—Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
Publishers Weekly
In this honest memoir, Koterba, nationally syndicated political cartoonist and jazz musician, depicts a childhood burdened with both Tourette's syndrome and an eccentric, overbearing father. A failed musician, the older Koterba drank heavily and turned his frustrations on his family. He also had a part-time business repairing and selling televisions, which turned their Omaha, Neb., home into a Sanford and Son–style junkyard. Like his son, he suffered from Tourette's, which has a genetic component. The painfully shy Koterba struggled as a young man to escape the family chaos and follow his artistic inclinations. Koterba renders scenes of family dysfunction with an artist's feeling for nuance and detail. His psychic turmoil is portrayed with equal facility, and the junkyard house becomes a fearsome presence. However, the book lacks thematic unity. While Koterba offers a number of recurring themes—his Tourette's, the Apollo moonwalk, a journalist uncle killed in a plane crash—none of these receive enough focus to sustain the narrative. Yet Koterba's weakness is also his strength: the closeness to his material. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
From the editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald, a respectable debut memoir about his odd childhood, living with Tourette's syndrome and overcoming it all to land his dream job. Koterba grew up in the late '60s in Omaha, the oldest of five children crammed in a small house made even smaller by his father's junk. A budget operator for the Union Pacific Railroad, the author's mercurial father supplemented his income by repairing televisions and other electronics that were piled throughout the house. Koterba's description is aptly cartoon-like: "The basement is a mountain range of picture tubes and gutted Zeniths, RCAs and Motorolas . . . Wires and cords dangle from the cobwebbed ceiling like roots. Paths snake around cliffs of TVs and boxes marked PARTS and MISC." The mess was a constant source of fighting between his parents. His mother was more nurturing than his father, who had nervous tics and a terrible temper. She praised Koterba's drawings and overrode her husband's penny-pinching when he forbade her from taking him to the dentist for a painful toothache. The author's story is more about the dueling desires of protecting and escaping family than it is about his experience with Tourette's. In fact, Koterba was not diagnosed until adulthood, when he saw a public-service announcement and wondered if his twitches were more than just nervous habits. His urges include jabbing his tongue in and out, smacking his forehead exactly five times, stretching his mouth into grotesque forms, repeating words (though no profanity) and sticking his fingers in the crevices of floors or corners of walls. He took playground beatings for his winking and was a shy young adult, but Koterba does notconsider Tourette's to be an obstacle in his professional life. Diagnosis was a relief and the "sophisticated and serious" name Tourette's a "prize," even more so when he was told that most who suffer from the condition are artists. The narrative is illustrated with pleasant sketches, though some of the cartoons that brought him success would have been welcome complements. Koterba showcases his hidden literary talent with writing that is nostalgic without being sentimental. Author events in Omaha, Neb., Iowa City, Seattle. Agent: Amy Moore-Benson/AMB Literary Management
Author of Seeking Peace - Mary Pipher
"Inklings is fresh and powerful. A truly new voice has arrived on the scene."—
Author of White Man's Grave - Richard Dooling
"This is the opposite of a sentimental survivor memoir. Koterba pays tribute to the raw materials of his childhood with an unerring eye and shows us how to make art, not in spite of adversity, but because of it."
author of Seeking Peace Mary Pipher
"Inklings is fresh and powerful. A truly new voice has arrived on the scene."—
author of White Man's Grave Richard Dooling
"This is the opposite of a sentimental survivor memoir. Koterba pays tribute to the raw materials of his childhood with an unerring eye and shows us how to make art, not in spite of adversity, but because of it."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547386508
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 789,277
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

JEFFREY KOTERBA is an award-winning, syndicated political cartoonist. He is also lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the Prairie Cats, a swing band. Inklings is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • 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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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