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The End h/c

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Anders Nilsen


Page 45 Review by Stephen

‘Since You’ve Been Gone I Can Do Whatever I Want All The Time.’

In any other context you would take that as a statement of defiant bravado after being jilted; or even a genuine, celebratory reclamation of freedom after extricating yourself from a smothering, destructive relationship.

But Anders Nilsen has a knack for succinct poignancy, and this is instead what little is left of his world following the death of his fiancée Cheryl as chronicled in DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLOW.

He can do whatever he wants now, except what he wants to do. That is now impossible. Instead he can do this – all the time:

“Me crying while doing the dishes.”
“Me crying while trying to eat lunch and read a book.”
“Me crying while trying to work on the computer.”
“Me trying to hold it together on the train in France.”
“Me trying to hold it together while merging on 90-94.”
“Me doing whatever I want with all my free time.”

By the state of his bedlinen there, Anders has being lying under it, facing the wall, for hours.

It’s not maudlin – none of this book is a self-indulgent woe-is-me wallow in self-pity; it is simply the honest depiction of his new stark existence in the absence of all that was there, following the abrupt curtailment of all that was yet to come.

Not every snapshot in that sequence is solitary – he has friends – but there is no conversation. Then eventually even the commentary dries up. The last nine panels depict Nilsen on automatic pilot, going through the routine of his daily domestic chores, alone and in silence.

There is a great deal more here than in the book’s original publication as part of Fantagraphic’s Ignatz line. Additional material has been reprinted from the MOME anthology; other excerpts were originally screen prints.

Whereas the piece above depicts Anders as a full portrait in a thin, fragile, pale blue line, the rest of book is more representational. One shows a simple, silent, silhouette of man, an effigy going up in flames, crumbling into cinders.

Another, ‘How Can I Prepare You For What Is To Follow’, is narrated by a blank outline of a man against the backdrop of full-colour photos of beautiful landscapes, often exotic, as he welcomes you to the world, and all life’s potential. It’s a brilliantly balanced piece, bursting with optimism, but also quiet, cautionary words born from experience.

“It’s a lot, and it’s very exciting. I can see that you already like it here. Your eyes are wide, and you are smiling.
“But I won’t lie to you, little one. The world can be a difficult place, too.
“You will sometimes hurt the people you love, without meaning to. And they will hurt you.
“You will make mistakes, great and small. There will be frustrations. There will be cruelties, there will be humiliations. And some day you will lose something you hold dear.
“Some day, in a way no one can guess, your heart will, in all likelihood, be broken.
“You have a small, fragile heart, the same as all of us.
“But here is the other thing, my little one: you are alive.”

That last line is meant with no irony.

Throughout the book, in the conversations between two more hollow figures, between Anders and Cheryl – or rather than Anders and Anders filling in for Cheryl – there is not just an acknowledgement that things will change for the better, but a certainty, an optimism about it. It’s just that he isn’t there yet, and this is an invaluable, candid and unsentimental documentation of that limbo from someone who’s been there. This, towards the end…

“So, I think I’m starting to… not get over your death, but… assimilate it.”
“I mean… I met someone. I really like her. Are you okay with that?”
“I’m not okay with anything, I'm dead. You want reassurance.”
“That would be nice.”
“I can’t give it to you. I’m dead.”
“Do you have to go?”
“I’m already gone.”
“So you can stay then?”
“I’m not here. At all. You’re the one that has you go. I can’t leave, because I’m not here. You can’t stay, because you are.”

It doesn’t get much more profound than that.
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