Tampa Bay Online reviews MID-LIFE

What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Tampa Bay Online    |    Tampa Bay Online    |    March 6, 2011

Joe Ollmann is funny. And he's kind of old. Old and funny appeals to me these days because, well, I can relate.

If, like me, you find yourself in your 40s and looking for a laugh about being in your 40s, Ollmann delivers in "Mid-Life," especially if you appreciate the sort of guy who is curmudgeon before his time.

You'll also have to enjoy graphic novels because Ollmann, who lives in Montreal, is an award-winning cartoonist who in these pages shows his ample skills at panel grid storytelling.

"Mid-Life" revolves around a guy named John. Like a lot of people in their 40s, John has started a whole second act in his life. His first act was being a husband and father to two girls, starting in his late teens.

In his second act, he has divorced, remarried a younger woman and had a baby. Meanwhile, he's working as a magazine editor, dealing with pressure and deadlines, and suffering from a mid-life crisis as he realizes his body is starting to change and he is feeling his age and (oh no!) he has become invisible to women under 30.

In one large panel, Ollmann draws John in his underwear, and it's not a pretty picture. "My body is falling apart," John says. "Let me just list a few highlights."

Among them are:

Face. "Liver spots and wrinkles. This is the kind of (stuff) my Grandma had at age 96…and now, so do I."

Shoulders. "Sagging, plus bosoms!"

Knees. "Bending to pick up my young son is accompanied by a sound like four chopsticks breaking."

And so on. This sort of honesty about aging will fly right over the heads of all the young ones out there, but for us aging Generation Xers (and Baby Boomers before us) — well, it's full of insight and hilarity.

The story itself is less gripping, but there are moments of real comedy and lots of, "Oh, god, that is so (fill in the blank the name of your friend who has done something silly in his 40s)."

In short: John develops a crush on the young woman who sings the songs on his son's favorite television show, and then orchestrates an opportunity to meet her. Which he does, in New York City.

What happens then is as embarrassing and pathetic as any story you've heard about a middle-aged man trying to reach back and relive something from his past.

It's not classic literature, but there are laughs to be had along the way, and that's good news for anyone enduring the life-roiling experience of moving into their 40s.

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