Review: Al Jaffee's Mad Life

Finished reading: Al Jaffee’s Mad Life by Mary-Lou Weisman 📚 One of the first Kindle books I got when I bought my iPad years ago, mainly so I could enjoy the color illustrations provided by Al throughout the book.

Knowing him only as a cartoonist and humorist (in addition to being the author of The Mad Book of Magic and Other Dirty Tricks, a copy of which I bought in my youthdom and display with pride), reading about his childhood is sobering. The actions of his unstable mother basically condemned her family – Al’s father, Al, and his three younger brothers – to lifelong physical, emotional, and financial traumas.

What shines through the sad stories is Al’s spark of playfulness and humor that enabled him to win over and make friends wherever he happened to land, and to make a game or playground of his sometimes terrible circumstances.

I was reminded a bit of the documentary on Robert Crumb, how he and his brothers grew up in unstable and violent circumstances to become unstable and fragile adults. Yet for Al, as for R. Crumb, art and success – no matter how small – saw him through and enabled him to survive.

Michael E Brown @brownstudy