Faber reprints this gloriously arch and bittersweet graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, surely one of the biggest reasons to not dismiss graphic novels as worthy competitors in the sphere of literary fiction. Tomine achieves a sparse subtlety in his panels, showing thought processes as well as snappy dialogue, as we get to grips with his selfish, bullish and paranoid Ben.
The book starts with the meltdown of Ben and Miko's relationship. They are both unhappy but seemingly too cowardly to pull the plug. Ben is hung up on his dead-end job managing a cinema and his own pretensions about his Japanese culture and being brought up a Westerner. It is alluded to throughout that he is secretly attracted to only Caucasian girls. This eventually pushes Miko away to New York to study film, while he, hanging out with caustic and promiscuous friend Alice, gets into scrapes, maudlin moments of depression and erratic dating situations, including a dalliance with an employee of his, a Caucasian girl called Autumn. Obviously, the final plucking of this forbidden fruit is never as tasty as it is in his head.
Shortcomings is a remarkable book, short and bittersweet, with a final page of panels that will break every man's heart, with its proverbial cathartic 'walk of shame.'
Shortcomings is proof-positive that comics are just as worthy as heavyweight literary fiction.