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A review in LitHub: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

Adrian Tomine Confronts Shame, Failure, and Jerks in Cartooning

Literary Hub    |    Emily Gould    |    July 23, 2020

Adrian Tomine’s new book, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, is an awe-inspiring chronicle of the embarrassments and failures that Tomine has suffered over his long artistic career. The humiliations catalogued here range from bodily—a seduction lavishly foiled by lactose intolerance—to existential, as when a flubbed chat with Terry Gross leads our narrator to disassociate so hard that he briefly contemplates suicide.

These stories are often hilarious, but their cumulative effect is poignant, as Tomine examines what it has meant to give so much of his life to his work. It’s something he’s still thinking about, I learned when we talked on the phone recently. “I don’t remember anything that happened in college—I mean, absolutely nothing. But I remember what I was working on—which pages of what comic I was drawing at the time.” Tomine has been famous, or as famous as comics creators get, since he was a teenager.

The earliest stories in this book date from the early 1990s, when his Optic Nerve comics were first winning acclaim and awards. His publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, published the first Optic Nerve collection in 1996, when Tomine was only 21. Being subject to the highest levels of attention and criticism at the very beginning of one’s career was about as pleasant as you’d expect it to be. In “San Diego, 1996,” the reader sees young Adrian excited to be nominated for an Eisner award, then sitting in the audience trying to conceal his emotions as the announcer skips over his nominee-ship because it’s “too hard” to pronounce his last name. He’s continually expecting respect and love to come from his work, and being met with disappointment that’s even more crushing because it comes from some of the same people he admires.

Read the rest at the link above.


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