Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine

I got this out of the library on a whim, as I was passing, because I liked the cover and I haven’t read any new graphic novels recently.  Shortcomings is about a guy called Ben Tanaka and the breakdown of (primarily) his relationship with his community activist girlfriend Miko.  I found it hard to like for two reasons:

1. I do not like alienated protagonists.  I just don’t.  I wanted to take Holden Caulfield and feed him to hungry lions.  So I didn’t like Ben, and I didn’t want to read about him, because he was completely unpleasant.

2. And this sounds stupid, but here it is.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if I had liked the protagonist, or really any of the characters.  There’s this scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where the teacher is reading a story to the kids, and it doesn’t make any sense to them, because they live in a certain way, and the story is totally outside their context.  And I sort of felt like that with this.  In addition to not liking anybody, I also didn’t identify with them, because their world is so not mine.

Hm.  This is a very close-minded-sounding review.  Oh well.

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7 thoughts on “Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine

  1. Not closed-minded, ya just didn’t like it! Different strokes for different folks. 🙂 I’ve read one Tomine (Summer Blonde), and it was pretty much the same way.

  2. Bah! Not closed-minded. Closed-minded would be not giving it a chance. I don’t mind alienated protagonists at all if I think they’re presented effectively – I’d probably rescue Holden Caulfield from the hungry lions you fed him to – but Ben was, for lack of a better term, a complete asshole. What’s disheartening is I don’t think that was even Tomine’s intent – it seemed like he thought Miko was the real villain. Everything unpleasant that happened to him was well-deserved. I actually liked the artwork and the secondary characters, though, but I can COMPLETELY understand how someone could find “Shortcomings” repellant.

    Keep up the amazing work! I’ve spent a great deal of the evening having a laugh over the entries in your “Unfavorites” category. Taking a break to comment here and then back to reading the funny 🙂

  3. I guess I just always want to like the things I read, especially if I’ve picked them up at random. That would be really good, to pick something up at random and have it be brilliant. That’s what happened to me with Diana Wynne Jones, now one of my favorite authors.

    Riot – I agree with you about the artwork and secondary characters. Your review of this is so nice and articulate, I feel like I should write a proper one! 😛

  4. I hate to tell you this, Miss Jenny, but you HAVE written a proper review! You wrote that you didn’t like it, and you gave thoughtful and insightful reasons as to why – that constitutes a proper review, darling! I really wish my writing could have your sense of humor – your “Breaking Dawn” review had me in stitches and I ended up re-reading the crack about FLDS wives about 4 times. Had I been drinking a soda, it probably would have spurted out my nose and onto the cat. Hope you don’t mind me adding you to my blogroll!

    And I’m with you on the wanting to like the things you read. Life is too short to be disappointed by random pickups, which “Shortcomings” actually was for me as well. I still have yet to pick up on a writer at random whose work has blown me away – nearly everything I’ve been impressed (and subsequently obsessed) with was recommended by people whose taste I trust. Someday, though!

    Keep up the great work!

  5. “I also didn’t identify with them, because their world is so not mine.”

    No offence, but this does make you sound a tad narrow minded. If I only enjoyed fiction that depict worlds and characters I can easily relate to then I wouldn’t end up enjoying much at all.

    And Riot, What gave you the feeling that Tomine vilified Miko and sided with Ben? This interpretation simply blows my mind and I cannot disagree more.

    To me the entire piece is an observation of Ben’s hopelessness and loneliness. He manages to alienate everyone he meets with his pettiness and despair, something which I never felt Tomine romanticized or glorified. If anything I feel Tomine almost went too far in making Ben completely irredeemable. By the end he loses the only thing that he really had left in his life because of his own selfish indifference and ego.

    At which point did you feel Tomine condoned his actions?

    • No offense taken! I may not have phrased that well – what I meant was that I didn’t find the characters sympathetic; and failing that, I didn’t engage in their (very dissimilar to mine) world. I’m sorry I can’t really remember that much about this book anymore! It just wasn’t that great for me.

  6. Pingback: Book Review: Shortcomings « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

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