On the site of international lit magazine, Words Without Borders, they've debuted a 16 page preview of the forthcoming English edition of this book (link via MangaBlog!).
I've had the chance to read the first 100 pages or so, and it provides a personal history and eyewitness account of the early years of the manga industry, and the development of the gekiga movement. Incredible stuff, both for fans and for academically-minded manga/Japanese literature nerds. It's easy to imagine this alongside Schodt's Manga! Manga! in a syllabus for a college course on Japanese Pop Culture.
Here's an example of what we're talking about (click the preview above for more pages!):
According to Amazon, A Drifting Life will be released on 4/16/2009. The recently-updated marketing summary of the book reads,
Acclaimed for his visionary short-story collections The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and Good-Bye—originally created nearly forty years ago, but just as resonant now as ever—the legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi has come to be recognized in North America as a precursor of today’s graphic novel movement. A Drifting Life is his monumental memoir eleven years in the making, beginning with his experiences as a child in Osaka, growing up as part of a country burdened by the shadows of World War II.
Spanning fifteen years from August 1945 to June 1960, Tatsumi’s stand-in protagonist, Hiroshi, faces his father’s financial burdens and his parents’ failing marriage, his jealous brother’s deteriorating health, and the innumerable pitfalls that await him in the competitive manga market of mid-twentieth-century Japan. He dreams of following in the considerable footsteps of his idol, the manga artist Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Apollo’s Song, Ode to Kirihito, Buddha)—with whom Tatsumi eventually became a peer and, at times, a stylistic rival. As with his short-story collection, A Drifting Life is designed by Adrian Tomine.
Anyone else gonna be at the Toronto Comic Art Festival in May, and attending the Tatsumi/Tomine presentation? I'm leaning toward trying to go... I wonder if Edgar Wright (who is in Toronto for filming) will stop by with Bryan Lee O'Malley to talk about the Scott Pilgrim movie?
UPDATE! - I thought this excellent comment from my buddy Nate (SH's Man in Japan) was worth bringing up to the top of the page. Nate is living in Japan right now doing PhD dissertation work, and had this to share about A Drfiting Life:
Having just burned through this in Japanese, I can confirm that this book is indeed the shit, and I was happy to pay the almost 40 bucks that the two volumes of the Japanese version set me back.
The beauty of this book is that it's not only the story of Tatsumi's career and life, or of gekiga, but really of both manga itself and even early postwar Japan. If you know your postwar manga (which I don't...) the list of characters is stunning; if you don't, it's a great introduction - Tatsumi palled around with Saito Takao of Golgo 13 fame and tons of others who are no doubt waiting to be discoverd by manga fans.
If I could make a criticism it would be that he spends a long amount of time in the second half really going into a lot of nitty gritty about the formation of different associations and contracts with different publishers - it drags a bit, but its stuff like this that make it really valuable as history, like Ryan says. The other thing I wanted was more!! Apparently Tatsumi spent 13 years and 800 pages on it, but he still only gets up to 1960 - in other words, way before he even got around to crafting the stories that we all have been introduced to! I wanted to find out how he went from near-virginal young manga boy to chronicler of dirty down and out shit. There are hints, but I want to know about the NEXT decade of his life...
One interesting thing is that I always thought "gekiga" referred more to said gritty side of life tales, but it really is closer, at least at that point Tatsumi chronicles, to "hard-boiled" type noir stories, and apparently went through some similar censorship issues as American comics in the 50s (comics code, Wertham, etc) Hopefully this book opens up the way for more of those classics to be published in English!!
Short story long, if you're not waiting with bated breath you should be!
UPDATE #2: I wanted to remind folks that Evan actually met Tatsumi back at Comic Con 2006, and we have the posts and videos to prove it! He also got us autographed and personalized copies of Abandon The Old in Tokyo! CLICK HERE for those pics and videos.
One of the videos from our YouTube Channel: