Fiction at a Glance

Summer Blonde

Summer Blonde
Adrian Tomine

Drawn & Quarterly
$38.95
hardcover
132pp
1-896597-49-1

The title calls to mind some sun-dappled Beach Boys idyll, but Adrian Tomine has something very different in mind. As the many followers of his Optic Nerve comic book series will know, Tomine has for some time been working variations on the theme of urban alienation and loneliness. Summer Blonde gathers the four Optic Nerve stories, and when concentrated in a single volume the unity of Tomine’s vision becomes clear.

In the first story, “Alter Ego,” a blocked novelist gets into a desultory affair with the younger sister of an old college girlfriend. The title story involves the nerdish Neil, a layout artist at an alternative weekly; Neil’s crush on a blonde girl in a card shop skirts the fine line between innocent obsession and stalking. In “Hawaiian Getaway” Hilary Chan juggles the demands of her meddling traditionalist mother with her own emotional dislocation, finally resorting to dialing the payphone outside her apartment and talking to the unsuspecting strangers who answer. “Bomb Scare” presents a high school tableau so finely observed you’ll feel like you’ve been time-warped back to those beset/worst years of your life, as three outcasts – two guys and a girl – negotiate the minefield of peer pressure and drinking parties while the Gulf War plays on TV.

Potted plot descriptions indicate Tomine’s preoccupations but only hint at how deeply he delves into the minds and lives of his everyday people. The graphic format is the perfect medium for representing the kind of alienation these characters feel; there’s nearly always a poignant gap between intentions and actions, between thought and words, and it’s a disparity exquisitely captured by Tomine’s balance of third-person description, dialogue and images. At times the jump-cut effect of some of his panel transitions recalls the cinematic innovations of the French New Wave, Adrian Tomine – the Truffault of contemporary comix? Sounds good. mRb

Ian McGillis writes about books and visual arts for the Montreal Gazette. He is the author of the bestselling novel A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry, and is currently working on a memoir about life as an obsessive fan of soul, reggae, and hip-hop.

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