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Dogs and Water Hardcover – November 19, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A young man wanders a war-torn tundra accompanied only by a stuffed bear. As he wanders, he encounters various animals and humans who all prove inferior to the lifeless bear as a real companion—imaginary friends are the best ones in a world where everyone competes for meager resources. Nilsen has crafted a haunting fable of humanity and loneliness, confronting tropes about journeys and destinations. "I know this whole venture is not about having a goal," he tells the bear at one point. "But doesn't the whole idea of a journey become kind of meaningless if there's not a sense of some destination?" Each encounter is more troubling than the last: a bus shows up but a passenger shoots at the narrator. A pack of reindeer try to steal the bear. In return, the narrator blinds one of the majestic stags with a rock. A human who shows up in the bleak terrain tries to steal the narrator's pack. The narrator is finally accepted by a pack of wild dogs that lives off the remains of both the humans and animals already encountered. Nilsen's open, simple yet graceful art captures the eerie, empty sense of loss that permeates this unsettling, memorable story. (May)
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Review

“Nilsen creates an epic landscape of desolation and doubt.” ―NewCity Chicago

“Nilsen's sparse, thinly rendered line work adds to the level of existential discomfort that the artist seems to excel at . . . Dogs and Water stays with you a lot longer than most recent comics, easily marking it as one of the best of the year.” ―The Patriot-News

“Nilsen's art is filled with amazing white space showing a true sense of human loneliness. Above all else, the work echoes our need to be heard, even if it is only by ourselves.” ―Punk Planet

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; 1st edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897299087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897299081
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.7 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,431,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. Salter on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anders's first big publication through Drawn and Quarterly. To be honest, I have plenty of friends that can't deal with minimalist and simplified style, but to me his linework REALLY opens up a complexity of space and organization rarely seen in comics today. This story reads a lot like a dream, or free association that got paid a good amount of attention, and I find myself not even caring about the 'why's' and 'wherefores' of STORY when I read this. It's rhythmic and melodic, with plenty of the human condition to satiate a readers who desire more subtle or complicated situations that happen both abstractly and literally in a certain kind of space.
Anders has amazing control over his characters and you can tell this artist knows what he wants and doesn't stop until he gets it. I can imagine these pages being redrawn quite a bit. But the final product rarely misses the mark.
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Format: Hardcover
Anders Nilsen, Dogs and Water (Drawn and Quarterly, 2007)

Dogs and Water is quite unlike any other graphic novel I've ever run across; if you turn your head and squint right, it's got a bit of Renee French running through it, but without a shred of the absurdity French brings to her wonderful little books. Or Shaun Tan without the fantasy elements, or the hope. Nilsen (Monologues for the Coming Plague) has crafted something here that's deeply depressing, lonely, and yet compelling enough that once you've cracked the cover, you'll end up reading it in one sitting, wondering just what the hell is going on, but not really caring all that much whether anything actually is.

The plot involves a guy with a stuffed bear tied to his knapsack wandering through what seems to be the Alaskan tundra. (You'll understand why I assume this is Alaska about halfway through the book.) The bear is his only companion, and he holds conversations with it. Does this make him lonely, or mentally unstable? We have no idea. He's definitely paranoid, despite the animals he runs across being generally friendly. Soon enough he runs out of food, and his wandering becomes increasingly desperate as he searches for more.

Yeah, that's pretty much it, though there is a climax to it (I don't really want to spoil what happens in the final third of the book, but Nilsen does a fantastic job of setting it all up). It's a very cold, one-man Waiting for Godot, perhaps. Yes, I'm still trying to find something to compare it to, and the fact that nothing really fits is a mark in the book's favor. You will have no idea what it is Anders Nilsen is on about here, but most likely it won't matter one bit. This is a glorious nightmare, a vicarious depression, and it deserves your attention. *** ½
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Format: Hardcover
I came across an excerpt of this book in the The Best American Comics 2007 collection, and it really stood out, both in terms of style and content. The style is perhaps best described as minimalist -- for the most part a very spare fine-point black line on stark white background, with no panels. And the reader is dropped into this empty background, where we find a young man trudging along an almost featureless landscape with a teddy bear strapped to his backpack. Over the course of the book his encounters grow stranger and stranger: a herd of reindeer, a mysterious bus, a pack of dogs, an abandoned war-torn village, and finally a crashed helicopter and dying man next to giant pipeline that plows across the page. Interspersed with these seemingly random encounters are strange dream sequences which are differentiation by the use of a light cyan ink. Interestingly, both the real and dream encounters almost always involve an element of threat, perhaps offering a rather pessimistic comment on human nature. So, there's no real "story" per se -- the book acts more a a commentary on traditional narrative form. There is no beginning, middle, or end, the character's journey is ongoing and possibly neverending. Throughout, the man talks to the bear, and in one passage, articulates what appears to be the central theme of the book: "I know this whole venture is not about having a goal," he tells the bear at one point. "But doesn't the whole idea of a journey become kind of meaningless if there's not a sense of some destination?" If your answer to that is "yes," then this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you're open to a more impressionistic style of storytelling, this is an interesting piece of work.
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