REVIEW: In conversation with Adrian Tomine

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12th October 2020

Review by Shivani Sahaya

To witness a writer speak without reservation is always brilliant and insightful, especially if this speech is about one of their own creations. With a self-reflective autobiographical novel such as The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, within which the author’s life merges with his work to create a meta-fictional experience for the reader that is powerful and passionate. Witnessing its writer speak in an event for the Durham Book Festival is then truly extraordinary. Adrian Tomine is candid, intimate, and hilarious all at once. In the span of thirty minutes he takes his audience through his personal journey that is, above all, truly distinctive.

Adrian provides insight into the stylistic differences between this latest novel and his previous work, the reasons that led him to depart from his usual format, the implications of making new and bold choices, and the profound impact of these choices on the book itself as well as on its public reception. Throughout the interview, he paints a vivid picture of his conflicted relationship with comics – and he ties it in beautifully with his experiences in the industry and his use of comics as a means of overcoming trauma and embarrassments. Although it doesn’t come close to experiencing the novel first-hand, the interview pauses at points in the author’s life that are material destinations in the book.

As Adrian begins to talk about his book’s conclusion and the message it ultimately tries to convey, his audience is given the privilege of gaining a deeper understanding of the bond he shares with comics, animation, writing, the industry, and the people it’s introduced him to. As the lovely Angus Cargill highlights in the course of the event, this can be most accurately summarised in the author’s basic yet memorable description of cartooning – that cartooning is essentially “using simple drawings to send a simple idea from my mind to yours.” This is precisely what he’s been doing for 42 years; and despite the “ebbs and flows” in his connection to comics and fandom, this is what he continues to do.

For those who have already had the pleasure of reading The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, this event is a great way to re-visit some of the novel’s emotional climaxes. For those who have not, it is possibly the second best way to be privy to the author’s story.

View the event here until November 1st.

This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.