A note on themes in Grand Gestures

To date, I have resisted offering any explanatory notes on my new book, Grand Gestures, to explain its intentions or even to flesh out what I thought the plot might be. The reason for this is that by-and-large I want people to find their own story and connect with the work on their own terms.

However, a recent review of the book by Rob Clough has suggested it might be timely to offer a few words on the book. This is in no way a criticism of Rob or his review, which is excellent, but just that his words happened to bring to my attention something that I hadn’t really considered, but I felt I should address.

Specifically I wanted to address the possible interpretation of the book as being about suicide.  The book did end up being about confronting hard feelings and the outcomes and impacts of that process of confrontation. Grand Gestures - trying to commune with nature ‘outside’ of human life, rejection of others specifically- can be futile and complicated. Then again, perhaps they can also be meaningful. The outcomes are ambiguous, and the ambiguous ending speaks to that. The grand gesture, however, was not intended to be seen as suicide. As far as I’m concerned, the chap carries on living.

Suicide is a complex, tragic, sad event, and while I believe people have a right to govern their own bodies and their own lives, the debate is complicated. I think if this book was about suicide, it would be a shallow plot device, which would risk trivialising or romanticising the act as a way of escaping the feelings with which the book deals. This would have served to diminish the complexity of the debate, and the complexity of the act itself. I have no wish to do that.

As I said at the time of its completion, in many ways it is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. Perhaps because of this, I find it hard to see suicide as a possibility for the protagonist, rooted as it is in my own inner world, in which suicide has never, ever been something I’ve considered. So although the story might be taken in many ways, I can only offer what I thought I was writing about at the time.

That said, I don’t want to shut down any interpretation of the book, especially those that promote important conversations. Deep down, I know the text lives on outside of authorial intent, and can be whatever you want it to be. It’s not a mystery to which I hold the key and in fact I’m still learning what the comic is about, even now.

Perhaps I need to let go of this fear, and let the story be its own thing. But in so doing, I just wanted to say that for me, drawing this story was about finding hope in the sometimes hard act of living, and I hope that in the reading of it, perhaps you might feel the same.

That’s all for now. Thanks again to Rob for his review and bringing this possible interpretation back to my attention.

Thanks for reading,

Simon

EDIT: I’ve edited the body of this text since its original post to better articulate my thoughts.

THIS IS THE NEWS: GRAND GESTURES reviews

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Well, it never rains but it pours. Or you wait for a review of a comic, then three come along at once. Yep. My Retrofit Comic book, Grand Gestures, has been reviewed three times in the last week or so!

Here’s a run-down of all the reviews/comments so far:

It’s been really exciting to hear all these different interpretations of the comic. It always was going to be a bit of an experiment in how far I could push the reader, while still retaining some semblance of ‘story’. Andrea Tsurumi had a cool take on the ending which I’d get behind, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out what that is!

Finally, Frank Santoro made a list of some of his current favourite ‘forward thinking cartoonists’, and somehow I made the cut. That’s pretty amazing.

You can buy Grand Gestures from me here (best option for UK/European/Asian/Australian customers)

If you’re in North America, you can buy it here.