Adrian Tomine knows — and shows — what
it’s like to be an outsider in an insiders’ world. His light,
naturalist-minimalist drawings and storylines tackle, in wry
Carveresque fashion, the awkward exchanges and loaded silences of small
moments. When you read Tomine, you feel like you are sneaking into the
ordinary lives of people you meet every day: the insomniac college girl
who runs into an old flame late one night in a diner, the scruffy
slacker whiling away the hours in a photocopy shop, the depressed
telephone service operator who makes prank phone calls. There are tales
about flirting with co-workers, about annoying neighbors, critical
mothers and superior younger sisters. His crisp, almost gestural line
work is both modern and retro, and each painstakingly composed
individual panel comes across like a scene from a movie. It’s pure
story done in a pure style, devoid of gimmicks or wacky, superhero

Now in his early 30s, Tomine began drawing comics in high school. His ongoing graphic novel Optic Nerve
which began as a self-published zine
before being picked up by alt-comics publisher Drawn and Quarterly,
became required reading for angsty young Gen-Xers. Tomine is, in a
sense, the Holden Caulfield for the Asian-American set. He’s drawn the

New Yorker
cover since then, but mainly he’s been working toward heftier narratives.

is Tomine’s first long-form graphic
novel. In it, we meet Ben Tanaka, a young Japanese-American male who
works in a movie theater. He’s obsessed with cute, artsy white chicks
and is having a rough time with his Japanese girlfriend. And then
there’s his Korean lesbian friend, Alice, seen here, who’s getting more
play than he is. If Ben doesn’t seem like someone you know, he will by
the time you finish the book.

—Gendy Alimurung

Excerpted from Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, to be published in October by Drawn and Quarterly.

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