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Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 1, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 1, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jimmy's first crush/best friend Sara has moved to New York to encounter the wider world. So Jimmy, a socially awkward man-child who likes reading hard sci-fi (the kind with rocket ships) and has no idea what a latte is, embarks on a perilous bus trip from his home in Oakland to Brooklyn to profess his love to her. He soon learns that the only thing worse than sharing a small bus with random ex-cons comparing notes on their prison experiences is crashing on a couch in a small Brooklyn apartment with Sara and her new boyfriend, Mark. Sara and Mark do their best to welcome Jimmy to the grown-up world, showing him different parts of the city and trying to broaden his limited horizons, but there's a real question as to whether their gentle coaching will take. Shiga (Meanwhile, Double Happiness) walks a fine line between sappy rom-com and maudlin love-lost tale, but largely succeeds in maintaining a balanced middle. He's aided by a crude yet geometric penciling style that draws the reader very effectively into Jimmy's point of view. He also displays a wicked sense of comic timing, which is equally effective at portraying awkward pauses and slapstick physicality. (May)
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About the Author

Jason Shiga is the creator of the bestselling graphic novel Meanwhile. Shiga won the 2003 Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. He lives in Oakland, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams ComicArts (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810997479
  • ASIN: B0078XPQPG
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,947,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As you may have gleaned from the handful of graphic novels I've reviewed before, I'm a sucker for autographical comics. And while the protagonist in Jason Shiga's latest book, "Empire State" is named Jimmy Yee -- and thus, clearly, this is not a strict autobiography -- you can't help but think that it based in real life.

The story follows Jimmy, an often awkward but very endearing guy sitting in a crossroads of his life. As he tries to figure out what to do next, his fixates on Sara -- a fellow nerd who is savvier than Jimmy and has recently left the Bay area (where they were both from) to reboot her life in New York City. The results for Jimmy are decidedly mixed, but nonetheless honest.

But there is a sweet wonder to this journey that Jimmy goes on. He approaches life with a surprisingly open heart and with the same senseless hope we all did when we were younger. I laughed at loud -- with sympathy! -- when Jimmy is secretly thrilled that a New York cusses in front of him ("Just like in Goodfellas" he can't help but exclaim) or when he explains that he decided to take a six day bus ride from Oakland to NYC because he "thought it would be a nice to see the country, traveling town to town..." And then sighed -- again, with sympathy -- when he explained he thought growing up would be like easier, that he'd "go off to some college on the East Coast for four years and then return knowing everything there is to know about the world."

Sara is a great foil for Jimmy, giving him hope, humor & firm swats on the immaturity when he needs it. And I love how Shiga tells the edits his story -- giving time & space for the sweet moments and the awkward ones too, but also flipping around the timeline, keeping the reader on the edge of the story.
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Format: Hardcover
I came across "Double Happiness" years ago, and have been a big Jason Shiga fan ever since, especially with his "Fleep," and "Meanwhile." Those books featured really unique concepts behind them, often with the feel of some kind of mathematical brain-teaser. He also adds in humor and a bit of cute and funny autobiographic-esque details.

This book wasn't bad, I just didn't think it had the spark of the author's best books. The basic concept seems fun enough: a sweet, naive protagonist with a penchant for romantic movies tries to do a romantic-movie gesture in real life. But it didn't draw me in, and I left the book thinking there wasn't all that much to it. I dunnow, perhaps I miss the more high-concept nature of the author's other stories.

One thing I liked was the details of Oakland' Lake Merritt - having been to the area many times, it's fun to see accurate sketchings in the background from various vantages.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this up mainly because the cover design and a three-second flip-through of the interior appealed to me. Unfortunately, once I read it, I discovered it to be a fairly run-of-the mill quasi-autobiographical but of post-college angst. The story is about Jimmy, an Asian-American living in Oakland who works a a technician/clerk for the Oakland Public Library (full disclosure, I work for a city public library system as well). When his one close friend (and sometime crush), Sara, moves to New York for a publishing internship, he's faced with the prospect of having to be an adult on his own. He decides to take a grand romantic cross-country bus trip to see her, and, needless to say, nothing works out quite the way he thinks it will. By the end of the book, he is slightly wiser, but still lost in the vastness of adulthood. I kind of feel like this kind of story/experience is a trope among graphic novelists. I mean, it's been a while since I read him, but I feel like this is these are the exact same themes -- and even settings -- that Adrien Tomine mined ten years ago. What does save the book somewhat is the artwork and design. Unlike most graphic novels, the panels don't come close to filling the page, more like 50-65% or so, leaving plenty of white space for story to breathe. Of course, this also echoes the theme of the book, of Jimmy's drifting through time and space, unmoored in adulthood. A magenta hue is used for all the flashback sections, while a cyan hue is used for the present-day action, which is a clever use of the medium. There is some decent dialogue, some good scenes, a few decent gags, but the whole book just felt kind of slight to me. I guess if your a fan of autobiographical works, this is worth checking out, but it wasn't to my taste.
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Format: Hardcover
Shiga is one of the mad geniuses of comics; his Meanwhile is one of the most mind-blowing explorations of causality and connection around, in a format that only comics could facilitate. (It's also recently become an app, which I haven't tried yet.) And his Bookhunter is nearly as awesome, a CSI-ish tongue-in-cheek adventure story of library cops and the fiends they pursue.

EMPIRE STATE is a smaller, more personal story than either of those; it's based loosely on Shiga's own life, and follows Jimmy, a quiet, stagnating guy in his mid-twenties, living in his native Oakland with his mother. His best friend, Sara -- whom he transparently pines for, though she either ignores or doesn't notice it -- has just moved to Brooklyn. So Jimmy writes her a romantic-comedy letter and jumps on a bus to go visit her there, hoping for the Hollywood happy ending. What follows is more like a gentler Adrian Tomine story; Sara has moved on, but is still a good friend to Jimmy. And, maybe, this is what Jimmy needed to finally move out of his comfort zone and get going with his life.

Shiga tells his story quietly, alternating between red-hued chapters for the past and blue-tinted ones for "now," building a slow picture of Jimmy's happy but limited life and implying all of the things that he wants, since Jimmy can't say most of those things. It's not as flashy as MEANWHILE or BOOKHUNTER, but it's smarter about people than either of those books, showing an intriguing new depth to Shiga's work, and it's a lovely not-a-love-story.
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