A short, laugh-out-loud graphic book about the promises and perils of exercise.
The hilarious and the profound are often only inches apart, and Inman (Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants, 2013, etc.) consistently nails the space between them. Better known as The Oatmeal, the author’s irreverent and peculiar webcomics resonate with millions of cult followers who identify with his self-deprecating musings on life. Part confessional, part commentary, the book has enough humor and satire to qualify as comedy but also just enough honesty to strike resonance and possibly even provide inspiration. Why does Inman run? He likes to eat junk food. Running helps with his depression. It helps him keep ahead of both his personal demons and The Blerch, a pudgy little cherub who follows him around and “represents all forms of gluttony, apathy and indifference” that continually vex him. Inman’s caricatures of his own inner battles will be vaguely familiar to most. While running, for example, the Blerch floats behind him, offering nonstop suggestions: “Slow down, Captain SpeedyPants! Let’s go home! We’ve got gravy to eat and naps to conquer. Also, the Robocop trilogy on Netflix isn’t gonna watch itself.” Inman’s witty parodies and droll cartoon illustrations deftly penetrate defenses, proving to be oddly reassuring. When an ultramarathon runner portrays himself chugging Skittles and consuming Nutella through a straw, it raises the possibility that progress—whatever the endeavor may be—is possible. Make no mistake, however: Inman is in, but not of, a fitness culture fixated on physical and nutritional perfection. He pokes fun at hypervain gym culture and scoffs at culinary purity and restraint. Exercise is simply a means to an end for him. Running temporarily dials down the volume of his fears and insecurities and keeps him from becoming a fat kid again. That appears to be reason enough to keep him pounding the pavement.
Sure to delight Inman’s fans and probably win him some new ones.