This Saturday, November 3rd (that’s tomorrow!) graphic novelist Adrian Tomine is going to be at Skylight Books in LA. According to the official Shortcomings website, it’s the third stop on his tour. He’s coming from Toronto, and after Los Angeles is going to Philadelphia, then back up to Ann Arbor, which isn’t too far from Toronto. This seems a bit geographically inefficient, but what do I know about book tours?
And what do I know about graphic novels. But before I disqualify myself from this post completely, one of the ideas that is circulating about Adrian Tomine is that his work is accessible to those outside the core graphic novel readers. I for one have been seeing his name for years, but didn’t actually read anything by him until a few weeks ago. Even then, it took Giant Robot, the New Yorker and a dozen other mentions before I finally made my way over to the comics section of the bookstore. Perhaps this goes to show how much a person has to be exposed to something before they finally react. Or how far graphic novels seem to some people.
In reality, it takes just two leisurely hours to read, and at the end of it you will be glad you got to know Ben Tanaka and the other lost souls of his universe. Ben Tanaka is an anti-hero, weak and ineffectual, and the world of Shortcomings is anti-comic, absent of fantastic adventures and super powers. The three chapters trace the comings and goings (mostly goings) of Ben, his girlfriend Miko, and his friend Alice. Many of the events happen despite the resistance of Ben, and there is a quiet humor to his identifiable struggles as a 30-year old and an Asian-American. Like all literature, when it is done well, you don’t notice the seams. It captures choice moments, faces them with honesty, and weaves them into an effective narrative.
Shortcomings is Tomine’s first foray into a longer story arc than his previous Optic Nerve comics. It was first serialized as Optic Nerve #9-11, and was published last month in one book-signing friendly volume. Up your nerdy-cool factor and go if you live in one of the hipster cities on his tour.