Anders Nilsen - Poetry Is Useless (Drawn & Quarterly)
Sketchbooks are often less appealing than other forms of comic - there’s no doubt some provide fascinating insight into the development of other work or into a cartoonist’s state of mind during a book tour, for example, but this is not necessarily sufficient to maintain interest over the length of a book. Sometimes they have the feel of those ‘deluxe’ album reissues where the brilliance of the original is diluted by all the extra tracks, unfinished sketches or songs that just weren’t good enough to include the first time around. It’s not always a good idea to think too carefully about what went into that sausage.
Anders Nilsen, however, has produced something frequently quite profound. Featuring more than 200 pages selected and copied from various diaries, a lot of this has already appeared on his blog. Pages are often scanned in straight from a notebook much smaller than the pages in this volume, leaving copious white space dotted with additional drawings below. There’s a real mixture of content here: short strips, travelogues, abstract images, observational sketches and a dizzying array of philosophical meditations (often on religion vs atheism, and the subjectivity of interpretations of the world). These tend to be presented in the format of aphorisms expressed by a simple silhouette. Sometimes the text is methodically crossed out, leaving the reader wondering what thoughts were retracted.
As is so often the case with D&Q, this is a beautifully bound and presented edition. It’s a stellar example of the form, a book to be savoured and not rushed, which leaves the reader in awe of Nilsen’s talent, and insight. Certainly no news to his fans, but this is that rarest of sketchbooks, a perfect introduction to a cartoonist’s work. Unquestionably one of the standout releases of the year.