The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Cartoonist, by Adrian Tomine
I must admit that I am not very familiar with any of the author’s previous work, and as this is a work which seeks to trade upon the familiarity that people have with the author’s writing, it is likely not for the best that I read this book not knowing nor caring about the author or his approach. Someone who is fond of the author’s work might better appreciate this book’s self-mocking and intensely awkward approach. Those of us who are prolific and occasionally rewarded but still obscure and not particularly famous creators of any kind are at least somewhat familiar with the indignities suffered by the author, and by the sort of neuroses due to unpopularity and social isolation that formed the creative fires that burn inside of us. I can understand where the author is coming from when he writes about the awkwardness of social interactions and his struggles as a father to discipline his children, as well as his high degree of ambient anxiety. But even if this book is intensely relatable, I don’t happen to like it, not least because there is a deep degree of passive-aggressiveness about the whole thing. This is a deeply autobiographical work that simultaneously invites the reader to laugh at the follies of the writer/cartoonist and then tries to make the reader feel guilty for performing as expected.
This book is about 200 pages long or so and it consists of various scenes from the life of the author, who bemoans the cruelty of his fate, and the politics and struggles of being a moderately but by no means immensely successful author, the sort who is nominated for prizes but doesn’t win, the kind who is invited to go on book tours but where few people show up for them, and the like. By and large the overriding concern we get here is tension. This shows up as interpersonal tension, as is the case when the author frets about his place within the comics community and the cynicism that he finds there with others, as well as the way that he seems to have a passive aggressive relationship with publishers, bookstore employees, other patrons at supermarkets, and even his children, who sense him to be a softie and who exploit it at inopportune times. If someone who is as tone deaf about reading people as I am can see what this person is all about, it’s unlikely that anyone who observes him in action isn’t going to be able to exploit at least some of his many insecurities and weak spots and his longing to receive praise and to find a place where he can be himself.
By and large, this book seems to convey the author as being intensely insecure and torn between being “nice” to others and being authentic. It is likely that a lot of people will see large parts of themselves in this book if they happen to share the same sort of history and proclivities and insecurities as the author does. Relating to a book doesn’t mean thinking that it is well-written or that it serves the author’s goals of winning the sympathies of the reader. At least as far as I was concerned, I could feel a certain degree of empathy for the author but felt few sympathies for his continued failure to learn how to relate to others or treat others with respect and demand respect for himself. This is an author who doesn’t really need the sympathies of the reader, though. What he needs is to reflect upon his failed patterns of dealing with others and his inability to communicate matters with others on the basis of mutual respect and consideration, which leads to feeling stepped on and then getting upset and targeting the wrong people or lashing out at the wrong place and time, all of which is evident here.