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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

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There’s a special irony in releasing a book about loneliness during a pandemic. But of course publishing schedules are long, and we envisioned this summer looking much differently. But there’s also a comfort in reading Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist right now. There are many directions I could take this post in—there’s so much going on in this book that I adore—but being the sap that I am, what drew me in from the start was watching this transformation of Adrian from a self-centered young man with a pretty small world, to something much more rich—something outside of himself, with a career touching enough people that it wasn’t really just about him anymore; with a wife, a family. It’s really a beautiful—and terribly human—story of growing up and into the world. These days, I’m finding the most comfort in stories like this—books and tv that remind me of what I love so much about humans—their flaws, their foibles, their hearts.

Which perhaps sounds cheesy (sue me!), but what keeps this memoir firmly out of that territory, is that even as Adrian expands as a person, he remains, perhaps to his own detriment at times, deeply self-aware, which materializes in this book as a cataloguing of the cringiest moments of his comics or comics-adjacent life. The result is Adrian’s funniest, most vulnerable work to date, and his most powerful and effective cartooning. 

From early scenes where he’s being bullied on the playground after expressing his one true desire—to become a famous cartoonist; to his mortification when his then-girlfriend, Sarah, makes a move to stand up for him in public; to the panic when he realizes he’s losing the attention of a room full of kids; to peripheral characters, instantly embodied: the jerk at a book launch who certainly knows everything, the woman in the subway with parenting advice, even the guy managing the line at the book fair—you see these characters and instantly know them.

It’s cartooning at its most efficient, and it appears effortless. The economy of Adrian’s pen strokes in these loose, lively drawings allows him to focus on the essentials of human expression. There’s an intention to each line that makes Adrian’s communication flawless. 

And perhaps the biggest win in all this, beyond connecting to humans on a deep level, is it allows Adrian to be incredibly funny, in a way that’s only really possible with cartooning this precise—this mastered. 

I don’t think I’ve covered many plot points here so if you’d like to read more about the book, you can do all that here, where you can also purchase the book, which is in stores today! Adrian also has an exciting digital tour planned, with the first event today, through our own shop, Librairie D+Q. 

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