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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

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A COMEDIC MEMOIR ABOUT FANDOM, FAME, AND OTHER EMBARRASSMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING CARTOONIST What happens when a childhood hobby turns into a lifelong career? The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Adrian Tomine's funniest and most revealing foray into autobiography, offers an array of unexpected answers. When a sudden medical incident l A COMEDIC MEMOIR ABOUT FANDOM, FAME, AND OTHER EMBARRASSMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING CARTOONIST What happens when a childhood hobby turns into a lifelong career? The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Adrian Tomine's funniest and most revealing foray into autobiography, offers an array of unexpected answers. When a sudden medical incident lands Tomine in the emergency room, he begins to question if it was really all worthwhile: despite the accolades, awards, and opportunities of a seemingly charmed career, it's the gaffes, humiliations, slights, and insults he's experienced (or caused) within the industry that loom largest in his memory. But as those memories are delineated in excruciatingly hilarious detail, a different, parallel narrative plays out in the background. In between chaotic book tours, disastrous interviews, and difficult interactions with other artists, life happens: Tomine fumbles his way into marriage, parenthood, and an indisputably fulfilling existence. While mining his conflicted relationship with comics and comics culture, Tomine illustrates the amusing absurdities of life and how we choose to spend our time. Through these cringe-inducing moments, a deeper emotional story emerges, and we see Tomine’s life develop into something much more robust than the blunders. In a bold departure in style from his award-winning Killing and Dying, Tomine distills his art to the loose, lively essentials of cartooning. His stripped-down lines communicate effortlessly, with each pen stroke economically imbued with human depth. Designed as a sketchbook complete with place-holder ribbon and an elastic band, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist shows an acclaimed artist at the peak of his career.


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A COMEDIC MEMOIR ABOUT FANDOM, FAME, AND OTHER EMBARRASSMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING CARTOONIST What happens when a childhood hobby turns into a lifelong career? The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Adrian Tomine's funniest and most revealing foray into autobiography, offers an array of unexpected answers. When a sudden medical incident l A COMEDIC MEMOIR ABOUT FANDOM, FAME, AND OTHER EMBARRASSMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING CARTOONIST What happens when a childhood hobby turns into a lifelong career? The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Adrian Tomine's funniest and most revealing foray into autobiography, offers an array of unexpected answers. When a sudden medical incident lands Tomine in the emergency room, he begins to question if it was really all worthwhile: despite the accolades, awards, and opportunities of a seemingly charmed career, it's the gaffes, humiliations, slights, and insults he's experienced (or caused) within the industry that loom largest in his memory. But as those memories are delineated in excruciatingly hilarious detail, a different, parallel narrative plays out in the background. In between chaotic book tours, disastrous interviews, and difficult interactions with other artists, life happens: Tomine fumbles his way into marriage, parenthood, and an indisputably fulfilling existence. While mining his conflicted relationship with comics and comics culture, Tomine illustrates the amusing absurdities of life and how we choose to spend our time. Through these cringe-inducing moments, a deeper emotional story emerges, and we see Tomine’s life develop into something much more robust than the blunders. In a bold departure in style from his award-winning Killing and Dying, Tomine distills his art to the loose, lively essentials of cartooning. His stripped-down lines communicate effortlessly, with each pen stroke economically imbued with human depth. Designed as a sketchbook complete with place-holder ribbon and an elastic band, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist shows an acclaimed artist at the peak of his career.

30 review for The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist is a collection of amusing, self-effacing autobiographical vignettes from Adrian Tomine’s career promoting his work at comics conventions, literary festivals, and so on, as well as the general public’s perceptions of his books. And it’s really good - I enjoyed it a lot! The book is designed to look like a real Moleskine notebook, which is what Tomine originally drew these comics in, and it’s a really cool touch - it’s complete with the same interior The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist is a collection of amusing, self-effacing autobiographical vignettes from Adrian Tomine’s career promoting his work at comics conventions, literary festivals, and so on, as well as the general public’s perceptions of his books. And it’s really good - I enjoyed it a lot! The book is designed to look like a real Moleskine notebook, which is what Tomine originally drew these comics in, and it’s a really cool touch - it’s complete with the same interior layouts, bookmark, elastic marker, etc. you’d see in a Moleskine book (though the spine is quite flimsy). It opens with a quote from Daniel Clowes on being one of the most famous cartoonists: “That’s like being the most famous badminton player”, which is a comment I’ve heard before from another cartoonist, Alex Robinson, who (when he is recognised, which is rarely, he’s mistaken for famed Marvel/DC artist Alex Ross) said on his podcast Ink Panthers “That’s like being called one of the most famous puppeteers in America!”. And that amusing observation sets the tone for the book which shows that, despite being a famous indie cartoonist, the reality is that he’s basically a non-celebrity and practically nobody could care less about him or his work (or learning to pronounce his name correctly, most prominently by Frank Miller at San Diego Comic-Con!). I liked almost all of the stories here. In particular the embarrassing book tour he took with Seth in the late ‘90s; finding out he was lactose intolerant after being interviewed by a cute woman he then tried to impress after consuming large amounts of dairy; and his one-sided rivalry with Neil Gaiman, whose signings continually eclipse his, particularly on the first time he met his future wife and mother of his kids, Sarah. There’s a lot more but I’m not gonna list them here - it would’ve been great though if some of the names ragging on Tomine hadn’t been redacted but I understand why they were, that’s just the eager gossip in me being nosy! I get the impression Tomine is a bit oversensitive at times. I mean, sure, I understand that sparse book signings, etc. can be embarrassing but he’s still a very accomplished author who gets to do what he loves for a living and have experiences (for better or worse, but that’s always the deal) none of us will ever have, and I’m sure a lot of his fans are scattered across the world (like me!) who can’t make it to local NY gatherings or conventions, so it’s not representative of his level of success. But I also feel like I understand where that sensitivity comes from in some of these anecdotes like the French literary festival that announces he’s won an award for Killing and Dying (also a great book worth checking out if you haven’t already) and then telling everyone it’s a joke before announcing the real winner (who fucking does that??). Or the random encounter of being seated next to a couple who don’t recognise him and go full on critiquing his book Summer Blonde, or being recognised by a waiter at a restaurant, being sent a dessert (nutella pizza - which he can’t eat because he’s allergic to nuts) and then getting charged for it! The book ends on a poignant note when he’s admitted into hospital in 2018 after suffering chest pains and, in the wee hours, he writes a heartfelt letter to his young daughters thinking he might possibly perish from a heart attack imminently. I felt that it was kinda repetitive and predictable at times in a Charlie Brown-sorta way, and part of me wonders if he isn’t playing up some of the stories for yuks, but generally I had a great time reading this. If there’s anyone out there (and I can’t imagine there is) who thinks the path to global fame is producing great indie comics (or anything book-related, with few exceptions), The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist will entertainingly and humorously dissuade you otherwise!

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    "That's like being the most famous badminton player"--Daniel Clowes, on being one of the world's best cartoonists I am not sure if you just picked this up and had never read anythng by Adrian Tomine you would get why I rate this five stars and think it is one of my fave books of the year. He's not for everyone, an anxious, sometimes grumpy guy who has been drawing comics since he was a child. By his own lights he admits he can be a bit of an asshole. But in this book he shares anecdotes from his "That's like being the most famous badminton player"--Daniel Clowes, on being one of the world's best cartoonists I am not sure if you just picked this up and had never read anythng by Adrian Tomine you would get why I rate this five stars and think it is one of my fave books of the year. He's not for everyone, an anxious, sometimes grumpy guy who has been drawing comics since he was a child. By his own lights he admits he can be a bit of an asshole. But in this book he shares anecdotes from his life as a cartoonist, focusing on the self-deprecating, and what everyone everywhere seems to call "cringe-worthy" moments of his life as recorded in his moleskin notebooks, reproduced to look very much like one here. Sweet, Drawn & Quarterly! The drawing is amazing, as always, whether you "like" him or not. He's an amazing artist, who is above all honest and often sweetly funny in his honesty. He writes about small showings for book signings, a guy sleeping in the corner as he conducts a slide show. Aa admirer who works in a pizza place sends over a apecialty pizza for him and the family--cool!--but then charges him for it. He's lonely a lot of the time because his work is isolated, but he's also not easy to get to know. But any budding or yes, long distant" (as in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe) artist can feel him here as someone just working obsessively all the time, largely unappreciated for most of his career, and you know, being a cartoonist as Clowes makes clear is nto the mst glamorous or "admirable" thing to be doing, maybe (though Tomine has won awards and is very familiar to New Yorker readers, among others). Early on he was brooding loner guy (Summer Blonde) and now he is married, with two sweet kids and a very understanding and supportive wife, so if this goes anywhere at all besides humor and fellow commiseration it is to give shout-outs to his wife and kids. I, a long time Tomine fan, loved the intimacy and humor of it. You want to see some of it? There's some here in Alex Hoffman's review: https://solrad.co/a-beautiful-life-de...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    Tomine offers a look inside his head, sharing his anxieties and documenting the "embarrassing gaffes, the small humiliations, the perceived insults" of being a professional cartoonist and low-level celebrity. The navel gazing is mostly humorous and self-deprecating, and to get outside his head once in a while, he offers a few cameos of celebrities from the comic book industry and lots of anecdotes from conventions, book tours, and signings. Its an amusing trifle, but I have to say the decision to Tomine offers a look inside his head, sharing his anxieties and documenting the "embarrassing gaffes, the small humiliations, the perceived insults" of being a professional cartoonist and low-level celebrity. The navel gazing is mostly humorous and self-deprecating, and to get outside his head once in a while, he offers a few cameos of celebrities from the comic book industry and lots of anecdotes from conventions, book tours, and signings. Its an amusing trifle, but I have to say the decision to reproduce it as the grid-pattern journal in which he apparently drew it annoyed me. The little blue squares on every page constantly drew my eye away from the art or left me spending too much time judging how crooked his panel lines were when they didn't cover the blue lines perfectly. I occasionally started looking too close and found the text difficult to read if each line did not run exactly through a line of squares. It's all unnecessarily distracting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Peterhans

    Very funny, not for the cringe-averse. The book is beautifully produced. Ends on a real moving story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    Tomine is supremely talented. I love the way he changes viewpoints as the characters talk. The self-deprecating schtick works for me. It's not quite as self-lacerating as Robert Crumb, say. But can you criticise someone for not being masochistic enough? It's very sweet and funny. And beautifully drawn.

  6. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    candid, self-effacing, and equal parts hilarious and embarrassing, adrian tomine's the loneliness of the long-distance cartoonist is a graphic memoir recalling incidents and interactions from over twenty years of the acclaimed artist's career. episodic in its telling, tomine's newest book elicits both laughter and empathy. even atop the pinnacle of his industry, tomine is seemingly still plagued by the doubts, worries, and warped self-perceptions that afflict so many thoughtful, creative people. candid, self-effacing, and equal parts hilarious and embarrassing, adrian tomine's the loneliness of the long-distance cartoonist is a graphic memoir recalling incidents and interactions from over twenty years of the acclaimed artist's career. episodic in its telling, tomine's newest book elicits both laughter and empathy. even atop the pinnacle of his industry, tomine is seemingly still plagued by the doubts, worries, and warped self-perceptions that afflict so many thoughtful, creative people. the loneliness of the long-distance cartoonist is honest and humane... and likely relatable for anyone who's laid awake at night endlessly recounting all of the stupid, cringe-worthy things they've ever said and done.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    O sweet Jesus, this book is so hilariously, mortifyingly funny, any cartoonist will appreciate the sometimes horribly embarrassing situations Tomine describes here. His revealing all of this really personal, uncomfortable stuff reveals a high level of self-awareness that I'm sort of in awe of, plus his cartooning is masterclass level throughout. What more could you ask for?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    Brimming with humour, pathos and comedic self degradation, Tomine’s memoir is shot through with a few running gags: the constant mispronunciation of his surname, being mistaken for or addressed as other famous cartoonists, and the gap between his celebrated public self and his inner turmoil. Tomine uses a six panel format with raw ink drawings on blue grid paper to examine his origin story, his professional achievements/embarrassments, and what he learns along the way to being a husband, a father Brimming with humour, pathos and comedic self degradation, Tomine’s memoir is shot through with a few running gags: the constant mispronunciation of his surname, being mistaken for or addressed as other famous cartoonists, and the gap between his celebrated public self and his inner turmoil. Tomine uses a six panel format with raw ink drawings on blue grid paper to examine his origin story, his professional achievements/embarrassments, and what he learns along the way to being a husband, a father of two, and a popular illustrator. This format works brilliantly at weaving together his various experiences (from being on a strange “comics cruise” across the Pacific Ocean to a book signing in Tokyo) and illustrating the gaps between his hopeful expectations and the absurdity and strangeness of reality. There is a persuasive charm to how he uses illustrations and compositions to convey meaning. For example, his emotional beats, with their wordless negative space, as well as overlapping thought and speech bubbles, articulate his interior life and his external reality in the same stroke. I couldn’t put this book down, and recommend it heartily.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Komal

    I really enjoyed this. It was beautiful how Tomine charts his career and all the accompanying humiliations and as somebody who wants to make something of her writing, this resonated with me in ways I can't express. I also really love how the book is made - it looks like a Moleskine complete with a bookmark.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ursula

    9.5/10 This is Adrian Tomine's best and most hilarious graphic novel. I can't recall the last time I laughed out loud so much. Read it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Koen Claeys

    I found myself laughing out loud multiple times while reading these autobiographical moments.

  12. 4 out of 5

    G

    I laughed, I cried. I've been a big fan of AT for years so I was already primed to enjoy it, but because it's effectively a series of vignettes casting AT as a neurotic Charlie Brown-type, it's incredibly readable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    This is an autobiographical account of just about every cringey experience in Adrian Tomine's life. The format is clever--it is designed to look like a moleskin notebook, and the pages have lue gridlines like you see in some moleskins. His drawing is clean but not obsessive--it has a casual feel. But still seems way too clean and precise to be actual sketchbook drawings. He starts with his humiliating description of how he confessed his love of superhero comics as an elementary school student to This is an autobiographical account of just about every cringey experience in Adrian Tomine's life. The format is clever--it is designed to look like a moleskin notebook, and the pages have lue gridlines like you see in some moleskins. His drawing is clean but not obsessive--it has a casual feel. But still seems way too clean and precise to be actual sketchbook drawings. He starts with his humiliating description of how he confessed his love of superhero comics as an elementary school student to his fellow students. Then he launches into a series of humiliations as a professional cartoonist, starting with his first trip to the San Diego convention, in 1995. About a quarter of the time his humiliation is due to other people's rudeness and thoughtlessness, but the rest is because of his own unrealistic expectations and thin skin. And the reality is that I don't totally believe it--after all, Tomine is a successful artist, whose career has been skipping along from success to success since he was a teenager. He started his series of self-published comics in 1991 when he was 17 years old. (It was shortly after that that I became aware of his work, and I loved it. I wrote him a letter that was printed in issue 6 of Optic Nerve praising his work, which bizarrely is quoted in this book.) I've followed his work avidly since then. Sometimes he's great and sometimes not--it's an uneven body of work. But at his best, Tomine is very good indeed. He's always been a realistic storyteller, but rarely autobiographical. The only previous autobiographical work he did that I'm aware of was Scenes from and Impending Marriage, which is similar to this new book. Both are humorous, which Tomine turns out to be pretty good at. And they are both self-deprecating. When the genre of autobiographical comics first became popular, it was so common for cartoonists to depict themselves as loser schlubs that it became kind of a cliche of the genre. It's funny that nearly 30 years after the heyday of the self-deprecating autobio comic that Tomine--one member of that generation of cartoonists who avoided that trope--has fallen back into it. This would be a criticism except that Loneliness is damn good. It was a cliche back when Joe Matt and Chester Brown were showing the world their faults. But now it's a device used by a master to tell a funny and moving story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    Adrian’s work has graced many covers of The New Yorker. He’s captured alienated worker bees, lost city lives, and missed love chances glimpsed through the window of the last train home. Here, he turns his cynical eye and pen inward and upon himself. His early career failures, social faux pas, an ever present insecurity and on to fatherhood and the health concerns of the middle aged artist. A graphic novel of deep insight and dark humour - that self doubt always just a speech bubble away.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    It's basically "All the Times I Felt Like Shit: Illustrated," but the bitter truths and cringe humor surprisingly hit all the right notes. This was a fun, awkward, weird, great read. Tomine has a real knack for illustrating the peculiarities of life, his own being no exception. The art is perfect - clean and tiny and just as derivative of 90s indie artists as ever (a point Tomine frequently notes in the book).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rusteen Honardoost

    Writers are all the same: self-hating, neurotic narcissists. I'm so sorry to all my friends who have to put up with my nonsense, but most of you are writers too and have put everyone you know through it as well, so let's just call it even.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul "Axl" Hurman

    Beautiful, melancholy, funny, and human. I loved it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    arterialturns

    Lovely depiction of a lifetime of insecurities and indignities, both touching and funny. Really well executed, and admittedly the physical book itself is a nice touch as well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    4.5 Tomine’s most personal work to date, albeit about his professional life. I loved every page.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark Ward

    His best since Summer Blonde

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Wow this was really good, I laughed and cried! Also just the way it’s made like a journal is so impressive, with the grid lines and elastic strap.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    In some regards it remind me of one of my favorite TV shows, Everybody Hates Chris.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris Neumann

    This is very good.

  24. 5 out of 5

    J. Bradley

    This book is amazingly cringy and honest and funny. It makes me want to read more of his work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I've only read one of Tomine's other works, and found both introspective and indulgent. I definitely relate to Tomine's countless anxieties, but it was kind of tedious to read and made me like him less as a person. There are so many sections where he came off as the asshole, and I was like, did you take anything away from this?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carolee Wheeler

    This was pretty good. But my big question is: does Adrian really hate himself?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    I must admit that I am not very familiar with any of the author's previous work, and as this is a work which seeks to trade upon the familiarity that people have with the author's writing, it is likely not for the best that I read this book not knowing nor caring about the author or his approach. Someone who is fond of the author's work might better appreciate this book's self-mocking and intensely awkward approach. Those of us who are prolific and occasionally rewarded but still obscure and not I must admit that I am not very familiar with any of the author's previous work, and as this is a work which seeks to trade upon the familiarity that people have with the author's writing, it is likely not for the best that I read this book not knowing nor caring about the author or his approach. Someone who is fond of the author's work might better appreciate this book's self-mocking and intensely awkward approach. Those of us who are prolific and occasionally rewarded but still obscure and not particularly famous creators of any kind are at least somewhat familiar with the indignities suffered by the author, and by the sort of neuroses due to unpopularity and social isolation that formed the creative fires that burn inside of us. I can understand where the author is coming from when he writes about the awkwardness of social interactions and his struggles as a father to discipline his children, as well as his high degree of ambient anxiety. But even if this book is intensely relatable, I don't happen to like it, not least because there is a deep degree of passive-aggressiveness about the whole thing. This is a deeply autobiographical work that simultaneously invites the reader to laugh at the follies of the writer/cartoonist and then tries to make the reader feel guilty for performing as expected. This book is about 200 pages long or so and it consists of various scenes from the life of the author, who bemoans the cruelty of his fate, and the politics and struggles of being a moderately but by no means immensely successful author, the sort who is nominated for prizes but doesn't win, the kind who is invited to go on book tours but where few people show up for them, and the like. By and large the overriding concern we get here is tension. This shows up as interpersonal tension, as is the case when the author frets about his place within the comics community and the cynicism that he finds there with others, as well as the way that he seems to have a passive aggressive relationship with publishers, bookstore employees, other patrons at supermarkets, and even his children, who sense him to be a softie and who exploit it at inopportune times. If someone who is as tone deaf about reading people as I am can see what this person is all about, it's unlikely that anyone who observes him in action isn't going to be able to exploit at least some of his many insecurities and weak spots and his longing to receive praise and to find a place where he can be himself. By and large, this book seems to convey the author as being intensely insecure and torn between being "nice" to others and being authentic. It is likely that a lot of people will see large parts of themselves in this book if they happen to share the same sort of history and proclivities and insecurities as the author does. Relating to a book doesn't mean thinking that it is well-written or that it serves the author's goals of winning the sympathies of the reader. At least as far as I was concerned, I could feel a certain degree of empathy for the author but felt few sympathies for his continued failure to learn how to relate to others or treat others with respect and demand respect for himself. This is an author who doesn't really need the sympathies of the reader, though. What he needs is to reflect upon his failed patterns of dealing with others and his inability to communicate matters with others on the basis of mutual respect and consideration, which leads to feeling stepped on and then getting upset and targeting the wrong people or lashing out at the wrong place and time, all of which is evident here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    This 160+ page graphic memoir presents a series of vignettes from Adrian Tomine’s life, starting with one particular day at school to book tours, signings, literary events, parenthood and more. To most readers, Tomine will probably come across as the most self-conscious person they will have ever met, perhaps even more self-conscious than themselves. As he himself says, “I hate that I’m such an over-sensitive, ‘glass half-empty’ kind of guy… I think, at heart, I’m basically a competitive, petty, This 160+ page graphic memoir presents a series of vignettes from Adrian Tomine’s life, starting with one particular day at school to book tours, signings, literary events, parenthood and more. To most readers, Tomine will probably come across as the most self-conscious person they will have ever met, perhaps even more self-conscious than themselves. As he himself says, “I hate that I’m such an over-sensitive, ‘glass half-empty’ kind of guy… I think, at heart, I’m basically a competitive, petty, easily-wounded narcissist…” Oh dear. I first read a short auto-biographical story written by Tomine in his New York Drawings book. At the time, I thought how great it would be to read more about his personal life and that is what compelled me to buy this book. I was anticipating that we would get to read more about Tomine’s life, where he was born and raised, his family and friends, where he grew up, was schooled, his passion for cartooning, how he came up with his stories, etc, but it is like that was all disregarded in exchange for page after page after page of stress, awkwardness, humiliation and embarrassment. Perhaps this is because, as he reflects at the end, “My clearest memories related to comics - about being a cartoonist - are the embarrassing gaffes, the small humiliations, the perceived insults … almost everything else is either hazy or forgotten.” I think it’s a shame, a shame for the reader and for Tomine too if that is all he feels he has to look back on. Still, the redeeming factor is that the book is very entertaining, we can laugh at Tomine's unfortunate experiences, some of which are very amusing, although I wouldn’t say hilarious. The book is nicely well-presented. It is designed to look like a classic black moleskin notebook, as used by artists both amateur and professional, with a ribbon to use as a bookmark and even a flyleaf at the front with the ‘If found, please return to…’ note inside. The pages have a square grid style, which may be off-putting and distracting for some, but it was fine for me. To summarise, this book is better than his fictional works in that it is actually funny in a schadenfreude kind of way; however, his fictional works are far more memorable and, in my opinion, something I would probably choose to re-read first over this one. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book and I would recommend it, yet I think my rating of four out of five stars is giving it the benefit of the doubt. I just wish we could have read more about Tomine’s life than what was presented here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I start almost every memoir review with the same kind of note, that in a memoir I am looking for whether the author actually has a strong grasp of the experiences they're presenting, whether they've fully processed them, whether they get what the story is. Much of this graphic memoir has clearly been stirring in Tomine's head for decades and he is unflinching at his willingness to show us many small moments of shame, embarrassment, and assholery. There is never a question of whether he has thoug I start almost every memoir review with the same kind of note, that in a memoir I am looking for whether the author actually has a strong grasp of the experiences they're presenting, whether they've fully processed them, whether they get what the story is. Much of this graphic memoir has clearly been stirring in Tomine's head for decades and he is unflinching at his willingness to show us many small moments of shame, embarrassment, and assholery. There is never a question of whether he has thought this all out, instead it's quite clear that it's much of what he's thought about for his entire adult life. For a while maybe you worry that this whole book will be a catalog of Tomine being embarrassed, being the subject of many a racist microaggression, being lonely. But it has a great arc where we end with the moment that he changes his own inner narrative. If you are a reader and you still think that being an author is glamorous, this book will very happily disabuse you of that notion. One scene, where Tomine and his wife end up sitting at a table too close to another table where the other couple is *talking about his book* and not only that but the girl gave it to the guy to read and he basically shits all over the book and her at high volume, I have never been more embarrassed and frustrated by proxy than I was on those pages, makes me sweat just thinking about it. It is a long collection of little moments like this, even as we see Tomine's career advance, moving from very small events to larger ones, going from new industry wunderkind to a guy people assume has nothing left to say they haven't heard before, it doesn't make his feelings about himself or his work feel magically better. There is also a lot here about the identity artists build for themselves, what it means and how it's constructed, that is much more self-effacing than usual. Tomine is never trying to make himself look all that good or authoritative. I feel like I have been reading Tomine for ages, but according to Goodreads I only started with SHORTCOMINGS 5 years ago so my brain has just imposed my affection for his work off back into the past when I started reading graphic novels in the mid-aughts. It's a weird brain trick but my brain also recognizes Tomine as fitting in that space of really interesting work and the excitement of discovery I felt for it back then, and I think that's deserved.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Oh man, I truly don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud this much while reading a book. I think a lot of the humor, deliberate or not, came from the fantastic combination of Adrian Tomine’s signature art mixed with the painfully self-deprecating, humiliating, and humbling anecdotes he uses to tell his story. The lactose-intolerance story made me laugh until I almost cried. I’m a huge fan of Tomine’s art, but I’ve sometimes not meshed as well with his storytelling. His stories often featu Oh man, I truly don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud this much while reading a book. I think a lot of the humor, deliberate or not, came from the fantastic combination of Adrian Tomine’s signature art mixed with the painfully self-deprecating, humiliating, and humbling anecdotes he uses to tell his story. The lactose-intolerance story made me laugh until I almost cried. I’m a huge fan of Tomine’s art, but I’ve sometimes not meshed as well with his storytelling. His stories often feature disagreeable heros and heroines, and explore some of the baser human instincts. This memoir sort of addresses that reputation by having him confront critics turn after turn, be constantly mistaken for Daniel Clowes (ouch), and basically have his confidence in his early success come up against his crippling anxiety about his growing notoriety. These stories are startlingly self-aware, and even if one doesn’t relate exactly to Tomine’s struggles of dealing with his fame, I think that many people will see parts of themselves in his constant waffling, his intense desire to please, and his confronting with the twin demons of work and family...figuring out what’s most important in the long run. There’s also the painful (but strangely funny) running bit that nobody can successfully pronounce his name. While it’s often played for laughs, it underpins a more nefarious racism and lack of respect in the comics/publishing industry. (Like that Frank Miller bit? Oof.) I think this memoir would be most impactful to those already familiar with Tomine’s work and his standing in the industry, but I think any artist struggling to make their way or name would relate to him making his painfully embarrassing way through life. There are moving moments, and MANY moments of hilarity. Tomine’s work is usually bitterly funny, but this was just full-on funny with a healthy dose of heartfelt moments, and a welcome change of pace. It also goes without saying, but this is one of the coolest book designs I’ve ever seen. The stickers, the elastic Moleskine-style closure, the grid-paper interiors...super brilliant idea for this kind of artist memoir!

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