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SleepwalkReview - Sleepwalk
And Other Stories
by Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly, 1998
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Aug 15th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 33)

Sleepwalk collects the stories in the first four Optic Nerve comics by Adrian Tomine.  The first issue was released in 1995, and the comic is published twice yearly.  Each comic contained four or five stories.  His work prior to this was collected in 32 Stories.  Most of his stories feature characters in their teens or twenties, and they are generally part of a counter-culture, alienated from society, or at least fashionable alternative.  His female characters often have short hair, are very pretty, and are insecure about their appearance, while the males are scrawny with disheveled hair and a surly look.  A typical Tomine story shows a person in his or her private misery, often explaining some episode of personal importance to them, in narrative text above the pictures.  His drawing is very distinctive, simple and elegant, and the whole effect is powerful. 

The initial "Sleepwalk" is a good example.  Mark is in his twenties, living on his own, sleeping late into the day.  On his birthday, he gets a call from his ex, Carrie, inviting him to dinner.  He accepts, and they have a good evening.  She is still very attractive to him, and neither of them is seeing anyone else.  But after, when they hug, he tries to kiss her and she backs off quickly.  She says she just wants to be friends.  As he is driving home alone, lost in his disappointment, he runs into the back of a truck.  He gets out, and the young man driving the truck calls on his cell phone for a tow truck, and then leaves, saying he doesn't actually own his vehicle.  Mark is left on his own by the side of the road, waiting for the tow.  It's a typical ending for a Tomine story, saying all it needs to say, but with no narrative closure. 

Another story, "Dylan and Donovan," is another strong story.  These twin teen girls are the daughters of hippies.  They live with their father, in his forties, who just got divorced from his fourth wife.  Dylan narrates the story, about a trip they all took to a comic book convention.  Her sister Donovan, who likes comics, sulks for the whole trip, listening to music on headphones and wearing a heavy sweater even though it is the middle of the summer.  Dylan explains to the reader how Donovan has been alienated from her school for years.  When they get to their motel, their father goes out for a walk and Donovan writes her diary and then goes to sleep.  Dylan reads the diary and finds that Donovan in fact is looking forward to the comic convention.  Reading earlier entries, she reads about the time when her sister was at the local college campus and had sex on the floor with a guy in his dorm room.  Donovan never mentioned the episode to Dylan, and Dylan feels betrayed.  The next day, they go to the convention again, and Dylan is utterly bored.  Wandering around, she sees Donovan in a dark room watching a video still listening to music on her headphones, and she hates her sister.  On the drive home, the Dylan wants to talk about what she has found out, but she can't find any appropriate words to express her feelings, so none of them says anything. 

Tomine's great strength is in showing how people feel trapped and betrayed by life, unable to articulate their anger or establish any real communication with other people.  His graphic art is confident and appealing.  It's a winning combination.  Recommended. 

 

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© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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