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Optic Nerve #12-14

Killing and Dying: Stories

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With Killing and Dying, Adrian Tomine presents six new stories unlike any he has told before. Unpredictable, darkly funny, and deeply moving, they display an exceptional range of focus and technique. The Village Voice called Tomine "one of the most masterful cartoonists of his generation," and this is his most ambitious and empathetic work to date.

128 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2015

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About the author

Adrian Tomine

54 books1,048 followers
Adrian Tomine was born in 1974 in Sacramento, California. He began self-publishing his comic book series Optic Nerve. His comics have been anthologized in publications such as McSweeney’s, Best American Comics, and Best American Nonrequired Reading, and his graphic novel "Shortcomings" was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007. His next release, "Killing and Dying" will be published by Drawn and Quarterly in October 2015.

Since 1999, Tomine has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters.

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5 stars
2,853 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,084 reviews
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
May 27, 2020
Fantastic! My favourite stories were "A Brief History of the Art Form Known as "Hortisculpture"" and "Amber Sweet" but I took something away from all of them. Really glad that I have two more graphic novels from Tomine because I've never read graphic stories like his: they feel so deeply like short stories in a way I wouldn't have guessed possible from the format. LOVED!
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
February 2, 2023
This is a gorgeous artifact. Hard cover book with amazing packaging, cover. And inside? The best artwork Tomine has done. Some of us know him through his multiple New Yorker covers, some of them collected in New York Drawings. Elegant. Clearly connected in various ways aesthetically to his friend Chris Ware, whom he can almost match for elegance and tone and precision artistically and thematically.

I loved Tomine's earlier, no less carefully done work, most of it in Summer Blonde, Sleepwalk and Other Stories, and Shortcomings. Since moving from the west coast to the east coast, to New York, Tomine has sort of hit the Comics Big Time. His Scenes from an Impending Marriage was a bestseller, so he is on the City Radar, though I found that one rather light. And okay, less miserable than i expected (hoped?!).

The thing I liked about most of Tomine's work, early on, whether we call it fiction (he does) or autobiographical fiction, it seemed to mostly be about himself. His characters are compelling, the drawing is terrific, but his world is cold, his main characters are often rude and self-centered and largely humorless. Not happy. But I read everything when I first got my hands on it, loving it in spite of this. . . unlikability. The fact that he is continuously self-deprecating or deprecating characters like himself, that helped with the unlikability factor. That appealed and appeals to me. Felt and feels honest.

This volume collects six stories, all of them bearing the stamp of two principal influences, as far as I can tell: Yoshihiro Tatsume and Chris Ware. There's a darkness in all three of them, a kind of social realism. Or maybe call it social despair. The style of the first five stories is Ware-like. . . (Be-Ware?) (Ware-ish?). Some of the panels seem to be tributes to Ware, his style, though he may not be quite as meticulous. . . . but then, who is?

Ware's Grandma told him to write about normal every day people, which he went and did (good boy, Chris!) in such works as the magnificent Building Stories, and so much else. So Tomine is doing his version of that here, as Tatsume also urges him to do. Working-class people's stories. Slice-of-life. Frailty. Vulnerability. These stories turn outward, to others, to society, rather than inward, to the self. Maybe he has been doing this all the time, I don't know, I haven't read all the Optic Nerve work. But this is a study of the middle class, middle America, and working class America.

And my initial reaction is that it is very good storytelling, though at times I thought he was being dismissive and/or condescending to some of these characters. The book jacket says this is Tomine's most "empathetic" work. Maybe it is, but sometimes I thought there was also a touch of his making fun of his middle-class American characters. Is that fair? Let's see. Tatsume might be seen as doing this, too, so maybe there are echoes of that in these stories. A good way to see this move is that he is creating snapshots, but not sentimentalizing.

The first story is "A Brief History of the Art Form known as 'Hortisculpture'" about a landscaper who gets this idea to do ART in the form of sculptured plants working through sculpted forms. Chia Pet sculpture, but larger, you know, topiary, but it's also just what a shaped garden is, enhancing nature. And this guy's work is really awful stuff, and his life and family nearly falls apart because of his pursuit of--his obsession with--this bad art. Empathy? Ridicule? Not sure, but my first reading was the latter; I saw it as satire.

Maybe it's like Raymond Carver, both sad and empathetic with a dose of humor? I very much like the guy's sad wife, endlessly supportive of her dopey husband. Ultimately he's someone I admire on some level. I thought of guys with chainsaws doing ice sculptures of bears and moose--not to say all that is bad, of course; I'm just really referring to the all-consuming desire and commitment to do outsider art just for the sake of doing it. Like comics artists toiling away on zines for free, it's art!

The second, "Amber Sweet" is about a woman who is mistaken all the time for a porn star and harassed for it. She meets the porn star, actually. Poignant? Uh, well. She tells the story to a possible romantic partner. . . I liked it fine, it's interesting, but it is not one of the best ones here. I empathize with the woman, a little, though almost no one else does that meets her in the story. It's a small portrait, this one. I liked it better on rereading.

"Go Owls" is about a jerk who meets a lonely woman at AA and they get together. He is a sports fan, fan of the local Owls baseball team, and later in the story he goes to a meeting where he is surprised not just sports fans attend (won't give it away). I am trying to avoid a spoiler here. But in spite of the hopeful beginning, two drunks on the mend finding each other, things turn sour as many of these stories do. Turns out he is abusive, sells pot to kids, has sad laughable sex fantasies he tries to enact. No one would like this guy, but is it a good portrait of the two of them in falling apart lives? I think so. Is Tomine empathetic about this guy? Hell, no, he's scathing about him. But about his sad girlfriend? Definitely. Again I thought of Carver stories of alcoholism and tragic-comic decline (ok, shit show).

"Translated, from the Japanese," is the sparest of them, a monologue. I like it the least. Too abstract. Hard to engage with.

"Killing and Dying" is a compelling and pretty pathetic story about a woman dying of cancer, their awkward 14-year-old daughter who wants to do stand-up and improv, and her husband who finds it hard to adequately support either of them. This one, in the final frames, feels fully empathetic to me. Tomine might actually care for this emotionally stunted guy. This one is one of the best; in it we care more for the daughter, who needs every bit of emotional support from her pretty emotionally clueless Dad. At least in the end he is trying. . . I think this is my favorite.

The sixth and last, "Intruders," is a direct tribute to Tatsume; Tomine is largely responsible for introducing him to western audiences, writing introductions, doing interviews with him. The drawing style owes something to Tatsume, for sure, and the tone, the sudden slightly upturned ending. This is another portrait of a sad guy, a loser who has destroyed his life and is drifting (see Tatsume's A Drifting Life), has the key to his old apartment, where he goes during days to eat and hang out. . . but one day he, intruding, himself encounters another intruder and has an altercation with the guy that would appear to change his life. Maybe. Regular people's isolated lives.

I would call this empathetic in the way of Tatsume who never romanticizes the poor, who hates a capitalist system that creates poverty, but never excuses his characters for their behavior because of their being down and out. They are both in part a product of a screwed up economic system AND they create their own messes. So it is with Tomine. Maybe that would be his defense of the harsh depictions of the men in so many of these stories. And it's usually the men who are jerks, of course. The women are generally sad passive victims of these men's assholism. Big surprise, eh?

The more I take a close look at these admirably depressing and yet inspiring stories the more I see Tomine emerging out of the dark worlds of Ware and Tatsume, or merging into theirs with his unique contributions. This second time around I'm thinking of them all in terms of Chekhov as a model). Maybe it is a 4.5 finally. I didn't like a couple of them as much as others, but the best of them are as good as anything out there, without a doubt. And drawn by a master, technically brilliant. One of the best comics works of the year.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,474 followers
November 16, 2015
Bloody hell I kind of want my money back but I don’t really but I do. This book is now the record holder for fastest time between discovering its existence, ordering it, getting it and reading it. And the part that took the shortest time was reading it. Well, nearly. It took me about 40 minutes and that was because I was draggin it out looking at the lovely pix and admiring the panel design and all the cool detail that Adrian Tomine puts into his exquisite stuff. So like this is a four point five star graphic delight that I am hereby knocking down to a frankly mean 3 stars because it is just too damn short. It’s too short, it really is. If I type any more this review will be longer than the book. Come on Tomine, I like my minimalism as much as the next Steve Reich fan but I think you’re just a tease, a tease is what you are.

Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,486 reviews12.8k followers
November 23, 2015
Adrian Tomine’s latest book Killing and Dying collects issues #12-14 of his series Optic Nerve and comprises six stories, almost all of which are superbly written/drawn.

I’ll get the one story I didn’t love out of the way first: Translated, From the Japanese, which reads like a prose poem about a memory from long ago being related from a mother to her child. A lot of Tomine’s stories in this book are very evocative but this one was openly trying for it and it didn’t work. Instead it came off as very boring and superficial, like those creative writing assignments where the students write about their grandmothers dying or something equally banal in a cheap effort to get an emotional reaction from the reader.

Translated, From the Japanese does have gorgeous artwork though. All of the stories are drawn in differing styles that’s still recognisably Tomine’s and all are remarkable. The book design is excellent too: it’s a transparent wraparound cover with writing overlaying the hardcover visuals. The paper also feels high quality and the colours look wonderfully crisp on it.

My favourite piece was the title story. It’s about a teen girl who wants to become a stand-up comedian despite seeming awkward and with a stutter. Her mother is very supportive but her father is not and has many reservations about her chosen dream. Killing and Dying refers to different aspects of the story but most pertinently to performing on stage where killing means you did good and dying means you did bad.

The story is fast-moving without captions to aid the reader in knowing how time is passing. Instead he shows us through developments in the plot. He does such a good job of creating his characters and endearing them to the reader so quickly, when I saw something happen to one of the three characters, I literally said “Oh NO!” – I can’t remember when I last reacted like that to a comic!

And while the story is full of disappointment and death, and in one instance is palpably cringe-worthy, it’s also somehow funny, real and strangely gripping to read. It deals with parent/children relationships and change perfectly and, without making light of the issues in the story, it’s really entertaining.

Go Owls is a close second for me. It’s the story of two alcoholics who fall in love, bonding over their shared loyalty to the local baseball side, the Owls, and we see their relationship develop over time, starting out quite cheerfully and then becoming progressively darker once the man begins to reveal his true self. Again, it’s a masterfully told story with utterly convincing characters and full of twists and turns – powerful stuff.

I enjoyed the other stories as well. A Brief History of the Art Form Known as “Hortisculpture” is about a gardener who tries to create a new art form –and fails. It’s mostly comical but is also a serious commentary on creativity and being an unsuccessful artist. Amber Sweet is about a college student who looks identical to a porn star and how that coincidence impacts her life. Intruders is a weird story about a disturbed man who uses the key for his former apartment to visit the place during the day and leave before the new tenants return.

Now in his early 40s, Adrian Tomine has been cartooning for more than half his life and the experience and skill he’s accumulated over the years really shows in Killing and Dying. It’s an outstanding collection of stories each one of which could be a full-length book but which Tomine has distilled to their raw and essential bases making for a decidedly more potent reading experience. The characters are really well-written, the artwork is impressive throughout, and the stories are (almost all) unique, fresh and compelling told with a pitch-perfect narrative sensibility.

Of the two, Tomine is definitely killing it in this book!
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews243 followers
March 1, 2019
Like his other books, I loved this collection of six short stories by Adrian Tomine. He writes about real people who struggle in some way or other, and while his frail characters aren’t always likable, I mostly end up caring for them. Much is left to the reader’s imagination though, as the stories are brief and the author only gives us little morsels of his characters’ lives. But his talent for visual storytelling is great and much of the emotions of his characters are communicated through his drawings.
I particularly liked the title story Killing and Dying, because I think it’s one of the most challenging things for parents to be supportive of their children without overpraising them. Personally I think you can’t praise them enough, as long as this praise is honest and based on their true abilities. In my experience, children often underestimate their own work and capabilities so there’s no need to exaggerate but there’s certainly no need for criticism. The challenge is to help them get a sense of worth built on something solid.
Tomine’s little, open stories never fail to have psychological significance to me!
Profile Image for Jan Philipzig.
Author 1 book262 followers
December 7, 2015
I've always enjoyed Adrian Tomine's clear lines and subtle, slightly twisted character designs... up to a point. I guess I am attracted to the pretty pictures and intrigued by the psychological insight we have come to expect from his stories, but have remained unconvinced that those elements ultimately amount to all that much. The short stories collected in Killing and Dying, culled from the pages of Optic Nerve #12-14 and Kramers Ergot #7, by and large obsess about human quirks and frailties in typical Tomine fashion. The book's title story, though (the one with the girl who wants to be a stand-up comedian), establishes a stronger sense of purpose: it feels more organic and meaningful than any Tomine story I've read before, bordering on Dan Clowes territory - definitely a step into the right direction in my book.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,536 followers
October 22, 2015
Eight years after his masterful graphic novel Shortcomings , Adrian Tomine expands his range considerably in this exquisite collection of stories, each with a distinct look and mood.

In the opening story, "A Brief History Of The Art Form Known As 'Hortisculpture,'" a feckless gardener comes up with a bizarre idea for an art project, even though no one supports him. The intentionally lightweight presentation - mostly four-panel comics leading to a punchline - helps the tragicomic material go down easier.

"Translated, From The Japanese" is an evocative, experimental work about a mother, her child and the child's father. Instead of seeing any of the characters full-on, we're given the narrator's poetic point of view in imagery that shows you what she's feeling.

And the most memorable tale, "Go Owls," chronicles the dysfunctional relationship between two recovering addicts. The abusive, arrogant male character is so charismatic that you almost understand how the woman is drawn to him. And as always, Tomine can show you with a character's tilted head or blank stare what they're not saying.

This is must reading for graphic novel fans as well as anyone who enjoys subtle, nuanced fiction.

A version of this review appeared in NOW Magazine here

See my cover story interview with Tomine here
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews529 followers
August 11, 2022
Wow. One of my 2022 reading resolutions is to dip a toe into the world of graphic novels. This is a genre I am woefully ignorant about. I tend to think of stalwarts like Alan Moore when it comes to graphic novels. But Adrian Tomine has shown me there is so much more to this art form than meets the eye (literally).

In January I had the privilege to read the wonderful Bread & Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York by Samuel R. Delany, illustrated by Mia Wolf. Now I found Killing and Dying: Stories recommended on my newsfeed and decided to take a chance on it. I was blown away.

Each story is like a mini movie with its own mood, aesthetic, and characterisation. Probably my favourite here is ‘Translated from the Japanese’, where all the characters are out of frame, creating a weirdly disjointed and omniscient effect. Plus, the writing is top notch, and no story ends up where the reader expects it go.

Probably what also appealed to me directly is that these stories are quite dark. Many characters are unlikeable, and many of the situations depicted are unpleasant, whether domestic, casual, or work related. But there is a thin thread of empathy that Tomine lays like a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow to the end and achieve a sense of quiet redemption. Evocative and magnificent.
Profile Image for Anthony Vacca.
423 reviews279 followers
May 12, 2017
it's fitting that Adrian Tomine designs New Yorker covers because he writes and illustrates New Yorker stories: i.e. short stories focusing on fairly privileged and fairly bland individuals caught up in the self-importance of their own fairly trite daily struggles until fairly uneventful denouements wrap up each of their tales. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Tomine. He does bland and unlikable people quite well, and his drawing style is very uniform and pleasing to the eye. But there is a lack of surprise, a lack of weirdness, a lack of urgency that makes his stories, well, lacking. But still, Tomine is a perfectly respectable figure in the world of respectable comics. Just don't read this collection if you are expecting either killing or dying. Ok, so there is one death.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
630 reviews382 followers
July 29, 2016
I can't remember reading a graphic novel by Tomine before, though his art seemed so familiar that I must have come across his work in an anthology or magazine in the past. I also can't remember having ever read a collection of graphic short stories, but it seems like kind of a no-brainer for the graphic medium to adopt the trends of its closest relative, literature. Make no mistake, Tomine isn't messing around with piddly concepts and thoughts, he's swinging for the literary fences with this one.

from Amber Sweet

As is the case with many short story collections, you've got a mixed bag. If you remember anything from early math education (as I certainly don't), then you'll recall that one's chance of pulling a desired item out of a bag is proportional to the amount of that desired item in the bag compared to the amount of the other items in the bag. That's clumsy, but what I'm trying to say is that Tomine has filled this collection with enough desirable short stories that it always seemed unlikely I'd find something I didn't like.

These stories vary in subject matter and, to some degree, colouring and art style. They are different enough that I was never hoping for Tomine to re-tread ground he had covered well in his other stories. Instead of "playing the hits", Tomine takes a stab with six different stories united by the characters' search for what they want from their lives.

from Translated, from the Japanese

Translated, from the Japanese (pictured above) is an understated letter written by a mother to her son about their trip from Japan to California. We never see the mother or son, rather we are treated to shots of the quotidian life that they encounter on their journey. This is the shortest story in the collection, but is a good example of the sort of understated approach Tomine takes in these comics.

Almost without fail, the stories were told in first person and I was able to immerse myself in the lives of these men and women. By and large, these are stories of people struggling with everyday life during different points in their lives. In the eponymous Killing and Dying we see a father struggle to support and connect with his daughter while his wife slowly dies of an unnamed disease. In the opening Hortisculpture we see a man's mid-life crisis embodied in an ill-advised art project. All of these stories are buoyed on a sea of black humour, which kept me from bemoaning what could have been a dull series of tales about the monotony of life.

I didn't much care for the last story, Intruders, and I'll admit that Hortisculpture went on a bit too long for my tastes. With all of that said, this would be a lovely addition to anyone's graphic novel collection, especially those in search of more "serious" experimentations in graphic literature. Also, this all comes bound in a beautiful hardcover wrapped in a translucent dust jacket. Pretty stuff for those who love to look at their bookshelves.

I liked this one quite a bit, and I'd definitely recommend picking it up or renting it from the library for anyone at all interested in Tomine's work. I'll be on the hunt for something else of his soon, feel free to send suggestions!
Profile Image for Jesús.
378 reviews21 followers
October 30, 2020
Adrian Tomine is a talented cartoonist, but his work continues to prove that it is not for me. As usual, his characters are all so self-deprecating, navel-gazing, and just plain self-absorbed that I just can’t connect with them in any way.

Tomine is gifted. And I love great comics. But I find his work as self-indulgent and misogynist as the work of Daniel Clowes and other male indie cartoonists who hit their heyday in the ‘90s. It’s like Tomine has been stuck in his early 20’s for his whole professional life. In other hands, that might not be a bad thing. But for Tomine to keep writing over and over about men-children in this way just wears me down. I don’t get anything out of this other than seeing a talented cartoonist devote their life’s work to unworthy subjects.
Profile Image for Paul Secor.
548 reviews48 followers
December 7, 2021
I read this collection after reading Sleepwalk and Other Stories and felt that it was somewhat of a let down - probably three star territory.
Except - the title story, "Killing and Dying" (not what you might expect - it's a story of a high school girl who stutters and has aspirations of becoming a stand up comic) is wonderful. Five stars for that one all the way.
Profile Image for David.
659 reviews317 followers
March 7, 2016
A collection of graphic short stories that show what the medium can do. Each is a unique, somewhat melancholic examination of living in the 21st century. I love how Tomine uses illustrations to tell a story as well. In “Translated, from the Japanese” we never see the characters in the story - just glimpses of what they see. And in Killing and Dying a secondary, heartbreaking story is told without words that culminates quietly with a blank panel that’s seems a minor hiccup but encompasses worlds.
Profile Image for Stewart Tame.
2,304 reviews90 followers
February 23, 2016
There's an indefinable quality to Tomine's stories that resists easy summary. It's particularly evident in "Go Owls", where the scenes seem to begin late and end early, just a bit more so than one would expect. It adds a sense of unbalance and unease that works well with the story. There's also some playing with time evident in "Killing and Dying", where the breaks between the scenes turn out to encompass more time than you might expect. His characters feel very real, very ordinary. Some of the work has the feel of Daniel Clowes or Chris Ware, but Tomine's work seems at least slightly more ... I don't know ... optimistic, perhaps? His stories may not be autobiographical, but they have some of the same sense of authority and realism to them.
Profile Image for Eve.
337 reviews470 followers
July 12, 2018
Gah damn, I am digging this graphic novel life. 💅🏻💅🏻💅🏻

I'm new to this genre, very new, like second-graphic-novel-i-have-ever-read new, so I don't really know the variables that go into making a good graphic novel; but I do know that I couldn't put this down, and I do know that Killing and Dying will make you reevaluate your life, your relationships, and just your overall being. Which I think is a pretty good indication of a pretty good graphic novel.

But hey, like I said, what do I know.

Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
March 5, 2016
This graphic novel is a collection of six stories, and they all deal with regular people, and their dreams and despair. No super heroes, no villains, no happily-ever-afters, and that is what I liked about these stories. They seemed liked snippets of people's lives that you might learn about if you spent a long plane ride with them. The art is wonderful, but I think it's just me - I'm not a fan of short stories, and while I liked most of these, not one of them really stayed with me after I finished reading the book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,212 reviews35 followers
November 17, 2017
A great collection of 6 short stories. Out of the three graphic novels I've read in this series this was by far the most enjoyable. The illustrations, stories and general quality of the book were A+ and left me wanting more.
Profile Image for Wojciech Szot.
Author 16 books1,064 followers
September 8, 2022
Zachwyca Was “Szczodrość syreny” Johnsona w przekładzie Krzysztofa Majera? Jeśli tak, to sięgnijcie po “Śmiech i śmierć” Tomine’a (tłum. Agata Napiórska), zbiór kilku komiksowych nowel, w których dostrzeżecie nie tylko “ducha” Johnsona, ale i zobaczycie jak jeszcze obraz może współdziałać z tekstem i tworzyć nowe sposoby opowiadania historii. To arcydzieło literatury, którego nie powinno się przegapić.

Otwierająca książkę nowela “Rzeźbiarstwo ogrodowe” opowiada historię Harolda, mężczyzny w średnim wieku, ogrodnika, który postanawia zasłynąć tytułowymi rzeźbami, tworząc - jak sam mówi - “nową gałąź sztuki, która dosłownie rzecz ujmując, żyje”. Nikt się jednak rzeźbami Harolda nie zachwyca, a lokalna wspólnota wysyła mu listy, w których domaga się usunięcia rzeźb z ogrodu ze względu na “złe oddziaływanie na sąsiedztwo”. Sceptyczna wobec działań Harolda żona stara się być wspierająca, co nie do końca się jej udaje - rzeźby rzeczywiście są ohydne. W finale bohater opowiadania sam dostrzega ich brzydotę.

Z jednej strony mamy tu do czynienia z prostotą narracji, z drugiej - z bogactwem scen, w których ludzie się kłócą, spierają, zawodzą swoje zaufanie, nieumiejętnie obchodząc się z emocjami drugiej strony. A wszystko to narysowane płaską kreską i stylizowane na prasowe paski komiksowe. “Rzeźbiarstwo ogrodowe” to wyjątkowe w książce Tomine’a opowiadanie, bo jako jedyne nie jest narysowane w jednym stylu - mamy tu zarówno szkicowe, czarno-białe rysunki, jak i strony wypełnione kolorowymi, cartoonowymi kadrami. Kolorowymi kadrami Tomine opowiada sytuacje, w których Harold konfrontuje się ze światem zewnętrznym. Czarno-białe sceny zarezerwowane są dla jego rozterek i sporów z żoną, co tylko zagęszcza opowiadaną historię.

Genialne jest tytułowe opowiadanie. Jego bohaterką jest jąkająca się młoda dziewczyna, która postanawia zostać komiczką. Rodzice są sceptycznie nastawieni wobec jej możliwości i aspiracji. Matka próbuje być bardziej wspierająca, co jednak prowokuje kłótnie między małżonkami. Rozdzierająco smutny jest finał tej historii, w którym ojciec musi zastąpić matkę w roli osoby, która mimo świadomości całkowitej porażki dziecka w stand-upie, dalej je wspiera. Bo co ma zrobić?

Tytułowa śmierć, a raczej zgodnie z oryginalnym tytułem, “umieranie”, pojawia się wyłącznie na marginesach opowiadań Tomine’a. Ich bohaterowie i bohaterki walczą o spełnienie swoich marzeń po to, by w świecie na który składają się przewidywalne sekwencje codzienności, znaleźć jakiś własny, unikalny cel. Może być nim zostanie komiczką, może być znalezienie miłości życia, może w końcu - zbudowanie rodziny, mimo przeszkód, jak w opowiadaniu “Przekład z japońskiego”. To moja ulubiona historia. Kobieta z dzieckiem leci z Japonii do Stanów Zjednoczonych. Jest narratorką opowiadania zarówno w tekście, jak i obrazie - na świat patrzymy jej oczami. Nigdy nie widzimy bohaterów opowiadania - przypadkowego mężczyzny, który z nimi leci, ale również dziecka, choć to ono wydaje się być całym światem bohaterki. Opowieść o trudach lotu z dzieckiem, lękach podróżnych, jak i obawach przed przed przyszłością zbudowana jest z kadrów, które pozwalają nam wczuć się w sytuację głównej bohaterki, jej bezsilność i nikłe nadzieje na to, że będzie lepiej.

Płaskie tła, wyraźna fascynacja amerykańskimi przedmieściami i barami szybkiej obsługi, trochę Hoppera, ale więcej Carvera czy właśnie Johnsona - komiksy Tomine’a zachwycają oszczędnością środków wyrazu przy jednoczesnym osiąganiu niezwykłej głębi treści i emocji płynących z tych nieomal nudnych, klasycznych kadrów. Tomine udowadnia, że nie trzeba szukać nowych form, a siłą jego dzieła jest wykorzystanie tych już znanych, niemal przezroczystych, do budowania napięcia jakiego nie znajdziecie nigdzie indziej.

“Śmiech i śmierć” to fascynująca historia samotności w marzeniach, ale i zupełnego czasem bezsensu tych marzeń. Bo cokolwiek byśmy sobie nie wyśnili, i tak wszyscy umrzemy.
Profile Image for Tom.
198 reviews41 followers
August 16, 2022
Killing and Dying presents a series of stories, culled from Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve series, that demonstrate Tomine's ability to combine comedy and empathy in genuinely affecting ways. Tomine's style is like that of a more grounded Daniel Clowes with a New Yorker-esque wit. His panels don't always pop and his punchlines don't always land, but when the pieces fall into place, his stories resonate and catch you off-guard. Take "Go Owls", Tomine's story about the relationship formed between two recovering alcoholics. What begins as a story of seeming healing eventually comes crashing down to Earth brutally. One moment you're laughing with a pair of flawed, sympathetic characters, the next you're rocked by a sudden shift in tone and content that feels tragically authentic. The best story in this collection, however, is the opening one, "Hortisculpture", about a frustrated gardener's quixotic attempt to make it big with his terrible sculptures. A hopeful shot at personal fulfilment becomes a years-long ordeal of frustration and embarrassment that's both hilarious and painfully relatable. The other stories in the collection are good, too, but "Hortisculpture" and "Go Owls" best convey Tomine's gift for combing simple art style with elegiac drama and clever observational comedy. Those two stories alone make Killing and Dying a worthy read.
Profile Image for James DeSantis.
Author 19 books1,125 followers
January 16, 2018
Well due to it being a bunch of one shot stories of course not every one will hit.

So we have a story of a guy trying to show his art, his craft to the world, but no one likes his ugly ass plants. Then we have another story about a mother traveling overseas writing basically a letter to her son. We have one where a girl is trying to be a comedian and her father and mother have different view points on it. Then we have one about a woman and a guy meeting at a AA meeting, both damaged, and both fall in love with each other. Also one about a intruder breaking into houses.

Good: Enjoyed the first story about the ugly ass plants this guy is trying to make. It's filled with sad and funny moments. The one about the two drunks is also well done, dark, and yet somehow funny at times. Also disturbing because shows how people depend on each other even when they know they're no good for them. Last great story, and the best, is about the young girl wanting to tell jokes. Her mother is very supportive, her dad not so much, and in the next few months as her mom is getting sicker from cancer she is trying more and more. It's honest, sad, and joyful all at once and easily the best story of the bunch.

Bad: The story about going to America was boring and the intruder one was really bad. Those two kind of dragged it down for me big time.

Overall I'd go with a 3 out of a 5. I'd give the comedian storyline a 5 out of 5 but the rest range from 1-3.5. Overall a fun little book to check out!
Profile Image for Roxanne.
463 reviews43 followers
March 2, 2016
I was drawn to this mainly because the hardcover version is a beaut, so even if the book sucked, aesthetically it had already won me over.
There are six stories, and there is a likely chance that one of these stories will resonate with you on some level so be prepared for that. It's not the cheeriest of reads but there is humour to some of the stories. My fave was Hortisculpture i don't know why it just got to me, the whole idea of even if you really want something to happen and you try your best that doesn't mean you'll achieve that goal it's more likely that it will all go tits up as things usually do, so maybe why bother in the first place just stick to what you know, and is that really a bad thing? Yeah maybe the meanings of these stories are a tad depressing but i liked the realism of the tales.
Definitely worth picking up!
Profile Image for Sebastien.
252 reviews287 followers
August 26, 2016
These are all stories about alienation, isolation, sadness. I usually hate stuff like this, but I connected with Tomine's stories here. I dug the characters, I don't know how he does it, but he makes you connect and care for them. He has a very deft touch in his storytelling, good pacing, nuanced, quiet...

Also, I am not usually into this type of art style, meticulous, clean, very measured mechanical lines. I'm not saying it's not beautifully executed, because it is beautiful, wonderful compositions, but it's not what I usually gravitate towards. But the thing about the art style, its cold exacting barren hardness, is that it fits perfectly with the themes of his stories.

I do recommend this series. This is the first of Tomine's work I've ever read, and I look forward to reading more :)
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,301 followers
September 2, 2016
Oh man, Adrian Tomine was my very first graphic novelist, not counting Maus. I spent one summer working at an outdoor book stall in Central Park, occasionally selling art books and maps to tourists, but mostly just reading, reading, reading. I devoured The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in one shift, tore through much of The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov, consumed John Henry Days, The Bloody Chamber, and, with violent despair, Summer Blonde. God, that book.

He's great in this one, too. He's great everywhere. What a wonder.
Profile Image for Kamila Kunda.
266 reviews210 followers
June 4, 2017
I enjoy reading graphic novels from time to time and Adrian Tomine with his newest collection of six graphic short stories is brilliant. I love his drawings and find him very skilled at showing a variety of emotions through nuances. He is also an amazing storyteller, able to convey more in the bubbles in the drawings than many novelists do in hundreds of words. He is particularly moving handling the notion of disappointment, the way life doesn't turn out to be as we wish. An extremely satisfying read, I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jamie.
Author 22 books3,128 followers
September 19, 2016
A collection of short stories in graphic novel form. Beautiful and spare, the art is pitch perfect and sublime, and the stories are all subtle but painfully relatable. A great way to spend an hour.

(Killing and Dying refers to stand-up comedy, so don't be too alarmed).
Profile Image for Jenbebookish.
618 reviews163 followers
September 28, 2019
Read 10/27/2019

I hadn’t realized these were part of the same series as Summer Blonde which I read awhile ago but hardly remember. They both have the same bland, forgettable, somewhat depressing slice of life stories about average people with mostly average problems.

My gut reaction was to rate this two stars but then I let it marinate a bit and changed my mind. For all the strange drab and dreariness that enveloped both the aesthetics and the very foundation of these stories, there was something oddly hard hitting about them. I think the purpose was to highlight the heartbreaking ways that life can chip away at us. The gradual dismantling of the soul through life. Very bleak and depressing message, but true nonetheless for many.

In ‘Hortisculpture’ a man becomes obsessed with an invented type of art/sculpture and for years struggles with facing the realities of his dreams as his supportive family is forced to defend his clearly ridiculous dream/whim. He eventually looks out at his sculptures and sees them for what they truly are-hideously foolish.

In ‘Amber Sweet’ a young girl is repeatedly mistaken for a porn star that she very closely resembles. It haunts her through her early adulthood, & affects her relationships. It’s not until she coincidentally meets the real Amber Sweet that she finds the strength within herself to fully release the trauma caused by their resemblance.

In ‘Go Owls,” a young girl finds herself charmed by a man from her NA/AA group. What seems endearing and engaging at first, quickly transforms into noxious & off putting, typical loser behavior that eventually crosses over into abuse. When he is arrested in a sting operation, she sadly walks in the other direction away from him even as he’s crying out for help.

In ‘Translated from Japanese’ a Japanese immigrant recollects her journey to America to her daughter. She recalls trying to come to grips with the sad state of their circumstances, and passive aggressively taunting her husband with the intent of causing pain. She wonders if her daughter ever realized the full extent of their unhappiness and just how close they came to “breaking.”

In ‘Killing and Dying’ a father wonders to his sick wife just how many of their daughter’s whims they should encourage. Her most recent desire to be a stand up comedian is met with resistance as he questions the practicality of it, but his wife insists on being supportive. When their daughter performs and is seemingly successful, he is remorseful for his doubt until he realizes she had performed someone else’s jokes. The dynamic between him & his daughter is tense and combative while his wife insists on being supportive even as she grows increasingly ill. Flash forward a bit and the mother is gone from the picture, & he is in a shabbier state. Hair grown out and disheveled, beard ungroomed. He follows his daughter to one of her performances and painfully watches as she’s mocked and scorned by her audience. He creeps away unnoticed and at home let’s out his frustration by shouting obscenities while he’s alone, but when his daughter returns he paints himself as clueless, and puts forth a positive face for her and she does the same. It’s peculiar. There is what feels like an unbreachable distance between them, yet they both recognize the need for kindness and do what they can to shield the other from the harsh reality, even tho in truth it’s all in vain.
I think this one hit me the hardest. It was the most sad, with the single source of positivity in their life being the wife/mother, and when she’s taken out of the equation the bleak affects are immediately visible. But I feel that it’s something we all can relate to, no matter the scale. We might not be mourning a big loss, but we all shield the ones we love from hard truths as best as we can, and most of the time it’s futile.

In the very last story “Intruders” a man breaks into his former home with a spare key he still has. It’s implied that he’s not with his wife anymore and is likely divorced from her, though he clearly still thinks of her and wallows in memories. He begins going to this house regularly just to hang out, sometimes even cooking things, sometimes simply watching tv, then makes sure to replace everything and leaves with the resident none the wiser. When one day there is another intruder that he’s forced to fight off, he barely makes it out of the apartment in time and when he returns again to find an old lady lying on the ground, obviously scared and upset, he tries to explain himself but she does not speak English so he simply leaves, throws the keys away, and attempts to fade into the crowd.
This story I found the most odd out of them all, I struggled to pin down the meaning. All in all I think it was simply another story of another person struggling to deal with the painful realities of life. In these stories there was unfulfilled potential and dashed dreams, there was isolation and deceit, also abuse, poverty, illness & death, & the emotional distance between parent & child. Intruders was about a man unable to move on, stuck in the past. All of these things are matters of the head and heart that most of us can relate to in some way or another. Each of us have felt some of these things, if not all, and can relate to these people dealing with these difficult circumstances poorly. Life is not always handled perfectly, we are not always able to tackle obstacles with positivity and grace. Sometimes sadness and desolation get the better of us, and depression wins. And that’s really the vibe that I got from this. Initially what seemed like bleak, pointless stories ended up making more & more sense to me as each story passed. The message itself might still be bleak, but I found it to be unifying in spite of that because we’ve all been there in some form or another, we’ve all gotten stuck in a bad or sad moment and were unsure of how to find our way out, & that’s what I found this to be. An ode to those mishandled situations. A love letter to wallowing, to awkward silences and awkward attempts at making amends, a comic ballad to life’s mundane tragedies and a more realistic look at the very human ways we handle them rather than your typical “You can do it” 💪🏽 positive attitude propaganda that we’re fed that makes us believe that everyone else is handling life and problems so much better than we are.

I liked what this was, tho I liked the message better than the execution. The art itself was oddly beautiful, in the way barren landscapes can be beautiful, or like a modern building can be appealing with all its cement and harsh lines and angles. Each story could have held more, could have gone into more depth with the characters but that wasn’t the intent, I guess. It was the smallest slice of life, slice of sad moments in sad lives. Probably more in line with the lives most of us live than the lives we always see and read about, which ultimately is what I liked about it. Now that I’ve read the 2nd and 3rd books in this series I think I’ll try and root out the first.
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