You know you’ve made it as a graphic novelist when a coffee-table collection of your drawings is published; similarly, you know you’re in the presence of someone really rather good when a coffee-table collection of drawings is easily as good, as readable, as a graphic novel.
Adrian Tomine, who will no doubt be familiar to Bookmunch readers as the author of Shortcomings, Scenes from an Impending Marriage and Summer Blonde, has had a number of his stray bits and pieces – album covers, New Yorker covers and article illustrations and various random sketches – eased between two hard covers and it’s the kind of book you can easily waste a lazy afternoon or two on.
The most instant attraction here are the sketches: Tomine has a beautiful eye for the kinds of people who snag you, the kinds of people you watch out of the corner of your eye on a train or a bus or out of the window standing on the corner. A content young woman who sat without moving for four stops on the D train, a troubled young man gazing at his watch on an empty train platform, the subtle facial reactions worn by a girl caught between two lecherous Wall St types. But these are quickly overshadowed by more adventurous pieces – such as The God of War which appeared in the New Yorker in 2005, two boys cycling, their shadows elongated across a stretch of wasteland, and the illustration that accompanied Lorrie Moore’s story ‘Debarking’. There is beauty here, distraction – see the sweet drawing of the young boy playing his DS on subway steps while a crowd about him watch the rain storming the top steps, waiting for a break – and, of course, least surprising of all, great bittersweet humour: check out ‘Shelf Life’, ‘Read-Handed’. This is also the place to come if you’re interested in Tomine’s take on Sleater-Kinney, TV on the Radio, and dozens of early drawn film stills.
The illustrations that draw you back, though, are those that haunt, those that raise questions, those that pull at something inside you – the shot of a girl lying naked on her front at night, her bra straps showing where the sun has caught, titled simply ‘AC’, the young girl gazing out of the back of her car entitled ‘Exile’, and most of all ‘Missed Connection’, the young man and woman who catch each other’s eyes from passing trains, each of them reading the same book. If you’d asked me before I picked up the book if this would be essential Tomine I would’ve shrugged and said maybe not essential but a nice to have; having spent this last few weeks peeking and peeking and returning to peek some more, I’d say it’s something more than essential: it’s something that all Tomine fans will want because it feels like a key to understanding everything else he does.
Any Cop?: A surprise, a gift, a highly recommended collection of work that is neither marginalia nor concentrated narrative. A real pleasure.