Monday, May 09, 2016

Searching For An Identity

Took it slow with Adrian Tomine's 'Killing and Dying'. It's too beautiful to rush through. Wanted to linger over the illustrations and slowly flip its pages. That tactile feel. (Reviews here, here and here.)

Am a huge fan of Adrian Tomine's drawings, ideas and words. 'Killing and Dying' holds six dark funny little stories about life, mortality, parenthood and comedy. Nobody murdered anyone. Everyone's looking for empathy and love.

The first story 'A Brief History of the Art Form Known As "Hortisculpture"' left me grinning. Not at all sympathetic of protagonist Harold. He's a gardener and is suddenly obssessed with making 'sculptures' that are a bit like bonsai plants stuffed into giant clay columns. It took him six years to wake up from the artist's dream. Awwww. His poor wife has to put up with his obssession and balancing household bills for six years, and even birthed their daughter during this period.

'Amber Sweet' is hilarious as it tells of how a college girl is mistaken for a porn star. Apparently they look alike. She allows this assumption that she's porn star Amber Sweet affect her life and all. Duh. Then she acquires a lousy boyfriend who never tells her he digs her for looking like Amber Sweet. Haizzz.

'Amber Sweet'

'Go Owls' reads just like a tv show about bad drug/alcohol habits and shacking up with new partners who aren't good for each other. Except that this couple don't live in a trailer. 'Translated, from the Japanese,' is a strange little tale re-told in the manner of a mother's letter to her child, trying to make sense of California and her husband. I couldn't quite tell how upset she is with the big move across the ocean. I can't quite pick a favorite story. They're different and all good.

'Killing and Dying'.
The title story 'Killing and Dying' tells of (to me), how a cynical (but loving) father crushed Jessica, his daughter's dreams of being a stand-up comedian and blames his dead wife for encouraging this 'hobby' when she doesn't have what it takes. We realize the mother is ill and passed away before the story ends.

The words don't say much regarding the transition. Scrutinize the drawings. Earlier encouraged by her mother, Jessica did well at a course for stand-up comedians. She delivers her scripted lines flawlessly. After her mother's death, Jessica cuts her hair and her stutter returns. She hangs out at open-mic night at the local cafe where she still tries out being a comedian. But her ad-libbing and lines fall flat. The father isn't cruel, but he's pragmatic. At least that's how I see it. That's the genius of Adrian Tomine- you're free to interpret the characters and their thoughts.

The last story 'Intruders' is kinda creepy in how the protagonist kept breaking into his old apartment after his divorce. It's brilliantly drawn in monochromatic color scheme. The only story in this collection not to have colors. He's staying in a hotel and somehow got keys to his old apartment from an old neighbor. He stalked the new tenant of the apartment for a week- a single guy, before using those keys to let himself in. He stole an egg and cooked it! Then he started bringing lunches over to sit for hours in there. All that stopped when on the last visit, an old lady (with suitcases, presumably visiting) is present, probably heard him come in, fell onto the floor and perhaps she managed to call 911. He left before the sirens come near. Eeeps. There's something heartbreaking about the story, and of the protagonist who's only trying to find meaning in his existence.


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