I’ve always thought The Oatmeal to be a reasonably entertaining, if somewhat self-righteous, internet diversion. Despite his predilection to use the Oatmeal as a soapbox to pontificate at times, and his tendency to overuse bodily emissions as a source of humor, Inman’s best comics are entertaining and informative, driven by whatever animal or tech obsession he’s nursing at the time of writing – his posts about his Tesla S and the mantis shrimp, for example, are some of his best.
His series on running long distances is a rather great one, and, following in a tradition established in previous publications, he’s released a book that’s all about distance running. It’s one of those comics in which he puts himself in an uncharacteristically vulnerable spot, describing running as a means of escape from the strictures and responsibilities of daily life, to seek a meditative void. Running, he says, subsumes the question of why under the singular focus of the moment, of the endorphin-fueled euphoria and clarity that running brings, and of the moments of exhaustion-powered transcendence that it can usher in.
As someone who naturally deplores running, but who has been trying to make an effort to be more active, I can relate, somewhat, to Inman’s message. Running is not the end, but a means to one – an activity that is deliberately agonizing for the sake of elevating one to a state in which agony becomes something you can vanquish and control. It’s an expression of self-discipline and self-control, but also an outlet to justify excess in other areas, and more importantly, it is a statement of horror against the prospect of becoming decrepit before one’s time amid all the temptations and sloth that accompany modern living.
In terms of inherent value, most of the comics in the book are available for free online. There’s one bonus comic, a guide of tricks on how to start running and keeping at it, which is classic Oatmeal in its blend of informativeness, gross-out humor, and a pinch of self-righteousness. I bought the book in solidarity with the message, and to support the comic, but others’ mileage may vary on whether it’s worth shelling out the cash to purchase a book that can mostly be found on his website.
Oh, and the Blerch is real.
I give this comic: 3.5 out of 5 Blerches
+ Oatmeal at top form
+ Self-help value
– Not much original content
– Self-righteous tone may be off-putting to some