Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Everything I needed to know about life I learned from opening other people's mail."
That sets the tone perfectly. Also:
"Why can't we just get along (sic)
"Stick and beat each other senseless?"
"A bird in the hand is better than a horse in the mouth."
It's not necessarily the most profound proverb, but it's clearly inarguable.
These are Anders Nilsen's notebooks full of cartoons and comics bursting with mirth and wholly intentional bathos.
"The entirely of world history, yes, including Napoleon and the Black Plague, has led to this moment, in the grocery store, where you're choosing what kind of cereal to buy.
"Don't fuck it up."
God and Satan are very much in evidence, God petulantly flicking his cigarette butt into Satan's back yard. It's silly to start a fight. The repercussions can be of quite Biblical proportions.
I think the process may be something like this: Anders reads, hears, sees or remembers something and amuses himself enormously by questioning it, often at length and in such ridiculous details that it is rendered absurd. He pokes things until they puncture, even admirable things like imagination and empathy. He can be pithy as well:
"Dear empty, lifeless void...
"Thank you for nothing."
It's easy to forget that the creator responsible for the haltingly moving eulogy DON'T GO WHERE I CAN'T FOLLOW and its epilogue, THE END, plus the raw, vulnerable and dreamlike DOGS AND WATER is an effortless comedian. I don't know why: BIG QUESTIONS is one of the funniest graphic novels I've ever read, and his piece in the equally enormous door-stop treasure chest that is DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS had me roaring with laughter. RAGE OF POSEIDON is riddled with wit.
A lot of the comics involve you being addressed by a black silhouette, which may sound a little simplistic but nothing more is required for it's all in the timing of the speech balloons, their contents, and this is the man's notebooks, remember? They weren't intended for publication, but if they hadn't been we'd be missing one of the funniest books on our shelves which fans of Tom Gauld's YOU'RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JEPACK will adore.
There are pages of portraits accompanied by pronouncements - snippets of stupid things his oblivious models are saying - and sometimes he gets caught and adds that to the memento as well.
Graph paper appears to provoke Anders into producing patterns and shapes, usually bleeding out from the centre of his sketchbook like a techno-organic virus. I did that when I was twelve too.
One of the funniest slices is a retort to a critic's snotty response to BIG QUESTIONS:
"Apparently, about my last book, the philosophy one with the little birds, some comics critic said my philosophical "reach" exceeded my "grasp".
"In answer to this criticism, I would cite the conversation Heidegger and Kirkegaard had in the Sorbonne as the first guns were erupting at the start of the First World War.
"Kirkegaard: "Is someone gonna go on a beer run?"
"Heidegger: "Where's my pants?"
"Kirkegaard: "Cuz I have five bucks but I'm not drinking any more fucking Miller High Life."
Coming in for a right satirical slapping are institutions like the Food And Drug Administration and poetry, obviously, which is useless.
Apart from Byron, apparently, for Anders and Lord (I think that was his first name) do agree on the whole Sorrow being Knowledge fandango - you know, "Those that know the most must mourn the deepest" etc.
"They say the unexamined life is not worth living.
"They don't mention that the examined life can be kind of like getting dragged through the desert at the end of a rope, too."
Amen. Excuse me, but it's wine o'clock and oblivion calls.