Notables 2010: Anders Nilsen’s Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes, Big Questions

Anders Nilsen, Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes, 2009. -AND- Big Questions, no. 12, 2009.

Anders Nilsen has been steadily amassing a serious body of work in the last few years. His series Big Questions, with Drawn & Quarterly, ran 15 issues, and is due to be collected in some kind of enormous slab this year. He’s got two large books of philosophical strangeness and humor (one of which is Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes), several other slimmer books, and he’s a vet of Mome, Kramer’s Ergot, and of course BAC, both as a notable various times, and in the actual pages. We’re big fans. So it’s no surprise we picked two of his works for the Notables 2010 list.

Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes is another one of those almost-indescribable works which we seem to like a lot (she figures out after having to try to describe a whole bunch of them). A blank-faced guy and a scribble-headed guy walk through various landscapes, tell jokes, encounter tall hipsters, robots, guys in suits, the occasional woman, and god—who owns a laundromat/health club/daycare center on the Southwest Side, apparently. Characters drift in and out, talking to the reader, beating each other up, and discussing philosophy in a way that makes you think Nilsen both believes and doesn’t believe this stuff. Really, it’s one of a kind. Except for Monologues for the Coming Plague, of course. But it’s funnier than that one.

Big Questions is a long-running series Nilsen started in 2000 as a self-published book. It features a diverse cast of characters that is dominated by small birds, but includes also several humans, and at least one snake. The action centers around the disastrous crash of an airplane and the explosion of a bomb in the birds’ home field. The events cause the birds to form theories, argue, and try to help one another. It’s wonderfully written and the art is light and delicate where Black Holes is clunky and immediate. The collected edition will be a must-read.

An informative review of Black Holes by Rob Clough

Age: Adult, though Big Questions might be teen.




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