Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine's latest graphic novel "Shortcomings" is a work of subtle, yet deep intensity that takes readers through a range of emotions, using his notable wit and humour.

On the outside, it seems like the story of Ben Tanaka and Miko Hayashi, two thirty-somethings coming to the end of their long-term relationship. And in some ways, that's it. But through Tomine's evocative illustrations and his punchy dialogue we are taken into the often boring/at times riveting world of everyday human desire and interaction.

This is best exemplified through Ben's ongoing desire for white women, articulated in his porn addiction and hiring practices, both of which Miko regularly problematizes. As the rift in their relationship grows with Miko's evolving race politics, Ben delves further into himself to escape any reproach. The reader is left wondering why these two are in fact staying together, a point poignantly made by Miko near the end of the story, when she explains, rather self-evidently, that holding onto someone simply/mostly because you're afraid of change is never a good idea. Indeed. But just how many of us have done this, and continue to do this? When one is stuck- as Ben and Miko so painfully are- in a pattern of denial, then anything is possible.

In any case, the true strength of Tomine's narrative is in the minutia, for example, the conversations between Ben and Miko, or Ben and his best (and only) friend, Alice. The dialogue is raw and real, so much so that I couldn't help but continuously think back to arguments I've had with lovers, friends and some odd characters who have come and gone in my life. In that sense, reading this book is a little like finding yourself in a Leonard Cohen poem- sexy, surly, and a bit surreal (is this really happening to me?)

Did I mention the drawings? Those are some fiery hot lead characters. Tomine is quickly becoming a master.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The 160 Workshop Series

We're planning our second installment of the 160 Workshop Series. Check out our blog or click on the image to find out about the details.