Adrian Tomine: Shortcomings and New York Drawings

Around last month, I’ve decided to get some volumes by Adrian Tomine from the Book Depository—which I’ve been planning for a long time now but never actually do—so I was overly happy [and poor] when the books arrived at my doorstep [separately—hah, two episodes of squealing and happily jumping up and down while clutching the book package against my chest and screaming, “Hooray! It’s here! It arrived! It’s so beautiful!” I can’t still believe that I am now possessing volumes of Adrian Tomine!]

Anyway, I got myself a copy of Shortcomings and New York Drawings. This isn’t my first time to read his works. I’ve read a couple of Optic Nerve issues way back then in my trusty Nook Color and I’ve been hearing about good things about his other works, particularly the art—which is absolutely amazing and beautiful.


Shortcomings is found in Optic Nerve issues #9-11 so I am sort of familiar with the characters—the Japanese-American Ben Tanaka, who is a grad-school drop-out working in an indie theater in Berkeley and currently in a tail-end of a relationship with his Japanese girlfriend, Miko Hayashi. It’s a short book and I’ve finished it in 30-45 minutes.

I find Shortcomings a bit accurate in terms of life after college: where you don’t know yet what to do or where you should go or if you should actually go somewhere or just stay where you are. Like Ben, he dropped out of grad school and manages an indie theater while his girlfriend grabbed the opportunity to go to New York City for an internship. Same goes with Ben’s best [only?] dyke friend Alice who, during the course of the book, also dropped out of grad-school. What am I getting here? I mean, we all have this phase, that we are aimlessly walking through life just for the heck of it [lol, YOLO?]. I kind of relate this to my current state that I am a bit comfortable in living and working here without exerting any effort at all, like I am having a Ben moment—the one who doesn’t want a change. I don’t want this to change [yet?] but there were times that I should be like Miko, grab an opportunity to work or live abroad and be away, be an adult or something. It isn’t easy, really, but I guess, every person will have that life-changing moment or trigger that will help decide what to do next. Which I find in Ben’s life, that in the end, he will surely face the change after all what happened.

The big issue in this book is their relationship: Ben and Miko has been bickering here and there all throughout the book. It was getting annoying as I turn the page! I’m, like, hold it you two! Get your damn shit together! Ben is such a big pessimist and an asshole but then, I can’t blame him! People are asshole to him, too—being Asian and all. That’s why this book is also an Ethnic read. It touches the issues in regards to race, particularly Asians in the US.

I like how Tomine actually addressed such issues through comics platform with deadpan humor and gorgeous artwork—clean, accurate, and if you notice, the facial expressions are always spot on. Ah, I don’t know if I am actually making sense here but really, the art is gorgeous. That’s why I also got myself a copy of…

N E W  Y OR K  D R A W I N G S

Initially, I thought this is an actual graphic novel with stories or whatever. The Goodreads synopsis is misleading as it says in the beginning:

Two strangers, both reading the same novel, share a fleeting glance between passing subway cars. A bookstore owner locks eyes with a neighbor as she receives an Amazon package. Strangers are united by circumstance as they wait on the subway stairs for a summer storm to pass.

Eh. I wish I clicked (more) so I’ll know that it isn’t a graphic novel but a collection Tomine’s artwork for New Yorker for a decade. I was a bit disappointed for a while but as I browsed it… I take it back. Every thing is gorgeous. It covers all the illustrations and art covers he did for The New Yorker throughout the years as well as the rare and uncollected sketches and comic panels. It also includes notes and annotations at the back of the book, which I enjoyed, too.

My favorite part of the books is the New York Sketches. It’s a series of sketches of people he rode with in or while waiting for the subway train. I’ve never been to New York City but it feels like I’ve been there before.


One thing I don’t like about the book is the ultimate waste of space. Sure, it gives off the feeling like it’s for an exhibit or gallery show but then a big page with just the illustration caption?! I didn’t pay $30 for that!


I wish the notes and annotations were included in those white spaces instead at the back. It feels like the layout artist didn’t know what to do with it. Sigh.

But anyway, it’s still a gorgeous feast for my eyes. It is recommended for those people who are really into editorial art, illustrators.

This entry was published on 10.06.14 at 10:26 am. It’s filed under In Which I Write About Books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Adrian Tomine: Shortcomings and New York Drawings

  1. I will read these books soon. Haha! Lend them to me. :P

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