All the Gorey Details

The Brooklyn Rail    |    Christopher Michel    |    May 4, 2011

Another memoir out recently from Drawn & Quarterly press is Adrian Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Tomine, who is perhaps best known for his New Yorker covers, draws inspiration here from a different set of 20th-century cartoonists: Charles Schultz, of Peanuts fame, and Bil Keane, who draws Family Circus.

Tomine is an excellent storyteller - one of his best covers for the New Yorker was of two people reading the same book on separate subway trains. The perspective is from the train where a woman is engrossed in her book. Through the window, you see the same book in the hands of a man, who has noticed the woman. The mixture of surprise, attraction, and frustration at the impossibility of their ever meeting is readily apparent on the man's face. The cover is both heartbreaking and funny.

Scenes is similarly funny, though because the subject matter is so hopeful, it's much more heartening. He makes you like both him and his fiancee as they navigate the frustrations of wedding planning. The book's style is much less detailed than a lot of Tomine's other work, keeping the references to weekly comic strips. Still, Tomine is adept at drawing a lot out in a single frame, and his mixture of pathos and humor are very much at play. The story is told in discrete sections, each outlining one of the frustrating details, from designing invitations (which Tomine, as a graphic designer, takes way too seriously) to getting in shape, to choosing a D.J. And at the end, when you find out what the book is actually intended for, it feels both heartwarming and special: a gift to his readers from a funny, very conventional person, who has let you into his life a little. These two books couldn't really be more different. And yet, they're both warm and quirky memoirs. In both, the authors present a persona that will make readers feel they want to know the authors a little better.

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