Adrian Tomine

Drawn and Quarterly




104 Pages


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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine's first long-form graphic novel, is the story of Ben Tanaka, a confused, obsessive Japanese American male in his late twenties, and his cross-country search for contentment (or at least the perfect girl). Along the way, Tomine tackles modern culture, sexual mores, and racial politics with brutal honesty and lacerating, irreverent humor, while deftly bringing to life a cast of painfully real antihero characters. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Tomine has acquired a cultlike fan following and has earned status as one of the most widely acclaimed cartoonists of our time.

Shortcomings was serialized in Tomine's iconic comic book series Optic Nerve and was excerpted in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13.


Praise for Shortcomings

"Adrian Tomine . . . may be the best prose writer of the bunch. His young people, falling in and out of relationships, paralyzed by shyness and self-consciousness, take on a certain dignity and individuality."—Charles McGrath, The New York Times Magazine

"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 and the Hernandez brothers, 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."—Jim Windolf, The New York Times

"Graphic novels are rarely this disquieting and subtle."—The Boston Globe

"Perfect . . . Shortcomings is Tomine's richest and most rewarding read, packed with the most human characters he has ever created."—The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"One of the most masterful cartoonists of his generation. [Shortcomings] is equal parts poignant, hilarious, and sad."—The Village Voice

"Tomine's genius is to strip his medium of every possible type of grandiosity or indulgence, and the result is that life itself floods in. His mise-en-scène rivals Eric Rohmer's in its gentle precision, and his mastery of narrative time suggests Alice Munro. Shortcomings, as near as he'd get to a grand statement, is as deceptively simple and perfect as a comic book gets."—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

"Graphic literature's most gifted realist . . . Fiercely honest."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"[Shortcomings] follows moody movie-theater owner Ben Tanaka, who struggles to hang on to his Asian girlfriend while secretly lusting after white ladies. He's sad and somewhat despicable, and yet Tomine, being the understated virtuoso he is, effortlessly spins him into a Gen-X hero . . . Exploring race, adulthood, and ambition with exquisitely tuned humor and poignancy, Shortcomings is a graphic narrative as piercingly realistic as any prose fiction."—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)

"It's a fair bet that Shortcomings will only further secure [Tomine's] title as the 'most masterful' and 'most critically-acclaimed' comics writer of his generation."—The Believer

"One of the most gifted graphic novelists of our time."—Wired

"Tomine's lacerating falling-out-of-love story is an irresistible gem of a graphic novel. Shortcomings is 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 white girls. 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 . . . 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 . . . keeps the issues secondary to his characters' messy humanity and gains incredible thematic resonance from this subordination. Tomine's dialogue is hilarious . . . his secondary characters [are] 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 [are] second-to-none . . . 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 . . . In crisp spare lines, he captures in all its excruciating, disappointing absurdity a single moment and makes from it our world."—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Adrian Tomine

  • Adrian Tomine is a graduate of The University of California Berkeley and lives in Brooklyn, New York. His illustrations have appeared in many publications, including 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.