Shortcomings

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Overview

The 2007 New York Times Book Review Notable Book now in paperback

Lauded for its provocative and insightful portrayal of interpersonal relationships, Adrian Tomine’s politically charged Shortcomings was one of the most acclaimed books of 2007. Among many interviews and reviews in outlets around the country, Tomine was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and also in The Believer, New York magazine, and Giant Robot. Shortcomings landed on countless “best of” lists, ...

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Overview

The 2007 New York Times Book Review Notable Book now in paperback

Lauded for its provocative and insightful portrayal of interpersonal relationships, Adrian Tomine’s politically charged Shortcomings was one of the most acclaimed books of 2007. Among many interviews and reviews in outlets around the country, Tomine was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and also in The Believer, New York magazine, and Giant Robot. Shortcomings landed on countless “best of” lists, including those in Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times; was praised by Junot Díaz in Publishers Weekly; and was the subject of a solo review in The New York Times Book Review that drew comparison between Tomine and Philip Roth. The groundbreaking graphic novel now returns in paperback.

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Editorial Reviews

Jim Windolf
The author is an expert at hooking the reader without tricks or obvious effort, and you'll be tempted to buzz through Shortcomings in an hour. But you'll want to slow down to take in the detailed black-and-white panels that casually document the way we live now. Tomine has always been attracted to love gone wrong among the hesitant young men and women of the bourgeois-bohemian set, but he gets his subject across in the unsentimental style of an anthropologist's report. Unlike the more playful graphic novelists who influenced him, Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, David Boring) and the Hernandez brothers (Love and Rockets), Tomine isn't given to flights of surrealism, rude jests or grotesque images. He is a mild observer, an invisible reporter, a scientist of the heart. His drawing style is plain and exact. The dialogue appearing inside his cartoon balloons is pitch-perfect and succinct. He's daring in his restraint.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Signature

Reviewed byJunot Díaz

Tomine's lacerating falling-out-of-love story is an irresistible gem of a graphic novel.Shortcomingsis set primarily in an almost otherworldly San Francisco Bay Area; its antihero, Ben Tanaka, is not your average comic book protagonist: he's crabby, negative, self-absorbed, über-critical, slack-a-riffic and for someone who is strenuously "race-blind," has a pernicious hankering for whitegirls.

His girlfriend Miko (alas and tragically) is an Asian-American community activist of the moderate variety. Ben is the sort of cat who walks into a Korean wedding and says, "Man, look at all these Asians," while Miko programs Asian-American independent films and both are equally skilled in the underhanded art of "fighting without fighting." As you might imagine, their relationship is in full decay. In Tomine's apt hands, Tanaka's heartbreaking descent into awareness is reading as good as you'll find anywhere. What a relief to find such unprecious intelligent dynamic young people of color wrestling with real issues that they can neither escape nor hope completely to understand.

Tomine's no dummy: he keeps the "issues" secondary to his characters' messy humanity and gains incredible thematic resonance from this subordination. Tomine's dialogue is hilarious (he makes Seth Rogan seem a little forced), his secondary characters knockouts (Ben's Korean-American "only friend" Alice steals every scene she's in, and the Korean wedding they attend together as pretend-partners is a study in the even blending of tragedy and farce), and his dramatic instincts second-to-none.

Besides orchestrating agripping kick-ass story with people who feel like you've had the pleasure/misfortune of rooming with, Tomine does something far more valuable: almost incidentally and without visible effort (for such is the strength of a true artist) he explodes the tottering myth that love is blind and from its million phony fragments assembles a compelling meditation on the role of race in the romantic economy, dramatizing with evil clarity how we are both utterly blind and cannily hyperaware of the immense invisible power race exerts in shaping what we call "desire."

And that moment at the end when the whiteboy squares up against Ben, kung-fu style: I couldn't decide whether to fold over in laughter or to hug Ben or both. Tomine accomplishes in one panel of this graphic novel what so many writers have failed to do in entire books. In crisp spare lines, he captures in all its excruciating, disappointing absurdity a single moment and makes from it our world.(Oct.)

Junot Díaz's first novel,The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has just been published by Riverhead.

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up
Ben Tanaka is a Japanese American in his late 20s, living in Berkeley and working in a movie theater. His confusion and frustration with his girlfriend, Miko, are compounded when she moves to New York for a four-month internship at a film institute, leaving him to have some "time off" from their relationship. The women in his life now include his best friend, Alice, a Korean lesbian; a beautiful, white bisexual who chooses her ex-girlfriend over him; and a performance artist who delights in photographing her own urine and having sexually explicit musical stage shows, but finds kissing icky because of germs. When Ben goes to New York with Alice, he finds that Miko has hooked up with a photographer and isn't in the city for an internship at all. Tomine uses an understated drawing style that is simple yet effective, and fits well with characters who are intelligent, reflective, and honest. In addition to tackling modern relationships and racial politics, pop culture, art, and cinema are also discussed. Ben acts as an Everyman, standing in for all Americans of mixed ethnicity and the confusion that often surrounds a person divided between two worlds. The wordless final frames speak volumes for his quiet contemplation, and many readers will identify with his struggle.-Jennifer Waters, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9788439721413
  • Publisher: Random House Mondadori
  • Publication date: 10/30/2008
  • Edition description: Translatio

Meet the Author

Adrian Tomine is the critically acclaimed cartoonist of the comic book series Optic Nerve; the graphic novels 32 Stories, Sleepwalk, Summer Blonde, and Shortcomings; and the art book Scrapbook. He is also an illustrator for The New Yorker, Esquire, and Rolling Stone, and his stories have appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Tomine lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 15, 2011

    style and substance

    Bold and brutally honest, Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings truly sets itself apart as an Asian American novel. The author's artwork is undeniably eye-catching; I was immediately struck by the simple sophistication of the cover art and was highly impressed by the liveliness and animation of each panel. Tomine's illustrations fully capture his characters' mental and emotional processes, making them more realistic and relatable to the reader. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how powerfully Shortcomings confronts the racial and cultural identity issues plaguing Asian American youth. The novel chronicles the many failed relationships of Ben Tanaka, a young Japanese-American whose cynical nature and struggles with internalized racism eventually alienate him from the people he cares about the most. Tomine's cutting dialogue and expressive illustrations work together to breathe life into each of the characters and unleash the conflicted Ben's inner turmoil. Shortcomings presents the issues of racism, self-hatred, and interracial romance in such a direct and honest manner that readers are forced to examine their own beliefs, values, and prejudices. Being able to somewhat relate to Ben and having struggled with similar cultural identity issues in the past, the novel allowed me to reflect upon my own experiences and how my attitudes towards my ethnic heritage have changed over time. The book brings to awareness the sensitive subjects of cultural assimilation and the Asian-Caucasian interracial dating disparity, catering to a young Asian American audience who will be able to understand and relate to these issues. Overall, however, Shortcomings is highly recommended to people of all different backgrounds as it will provoke insightful thought and dialogue regarding prevailing racial attitudes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    I read this book today and I couldn't put it down. I liked how he created his language. It made sense. The way he told a story without words, for a couple of panels, I felt the argument that was happening. It was a great book to see how someone of color, or a minority, would feel towards the majority race. Or rather the race that seems to permeate our nations magazines and television shows. I have felt like Ben somedays, looking at pale skin and loving it. The way he tells the story, and his girlfriend doing the same thing as him and he not liking it. Yeah i've done the same thing myself. Damn this american culture which doesn't show us that there is beautiful things wherever we go, so maybe now I sound like Ben more, but I really loved this comic book. It brought out emotions in me, a funny book bringing out emotions, what? But Tomine is a great comic book writer. I read another of his books a couple of years ago and gave it to this white girl I had a crush on. I doubt she ever read it, but I passed it along, hoping someone else in this world could get something out of it like I did. But I did enjoy this. Buy it and read it on a lazy afternoon, its better than going to the movies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

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    Posted January 3, 2010

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