Review by Frank Plowright
At first glance the cover of Koren Shadmi’s autobiographical recollections may seem self-aggrandising, but with its portrait of a definitely uncertain Shadmi concealing himself it’s an accurate representation of the content. That’s confessional, with the boastful portions resolutely undercut.
Shadmi certainly doesn’t take the obvious approach by starting with an eighteen month relationship in microcosm from meeting to absolute disintegration. Fed up with his low mood and moping around afterwards, his flatmate Brian sets Shadmi up with a dating site account. The first encounters range from disastrous to just about acceptable, but of course, the only viewpoint is Shadmi’s. He gradually becomes more adept at using the filtering features on site, but this only leads to more self-loathing as he examines a shallow need for sex, which he isn’t experiencing. Meanwhile the outgoing Brian’s life is one of constant hedonistic fulfilment.
Eventually Shadmi’s ambitions become reality, and despite the occasional difficulty it has a transformative aspect on his personality. He discovers that to some women arrogance is an appealing quality and exploits that, ignoring his therapist’s advice that any satisfaction is only going to be transitory.
Robert Crumb remains the gold standard for this type of confessional material from nerdy guys, and Shadmi shares his attraction to well-built and muscled women. He even highlights the similarities by incorporating a visit to a Crumb exhibition into the story. Unlike Crumb, however, Shadmi’s not at ease with his desires, and deliberately progresses the tone ensuring that an initially sympathetic character becomes someone whose company is uncomfortable, then someone who’s a predatory slug. While most of the book is autobiographical, Shadmi also incorporates the experiences of others for dramatic purposes. He uses the term ‘addict’ in the title, and while there’s a form of being controlled to his behaviour patterns, it falls short of addiction. Yet every time he determines he should quit the dating site there’s a timely message or new picture that prevents him pulling the plug. For such an awkward topic it’s gratifying to see the numerous women involved invested with personalities.
Chadmi is an animator, but there’s not a hint of the cutesy projects he works on in this cathartic project. In terms of style there’s something more European about his techniques. He brings Brooklyn to life, and illustrates a lot of women, all of them distinguishable, a technique that many artists with decades long careers still haven’t mastered.
The reflection Chadmi sees during his long hard look in the mirror is one with which many share aspects. Love Addict’s not intended as a comforting read, and it poses numerous personal questions that only the reader can answer. Within the 224 pages there is no great revelatory cathartic moment, no waking up to smell the coffee (although there is waking up to smell the vomit), but that’s provided by the decision to publish. We should all take heed.