There are topics people are uncomfortable with talking about, and then there are the topics people don’t want to even approach, because falling short of anything but several PhDs on the subject, you might make a misstep and say something grotesquely inaccurate. Which is a shame, because sometimes, not talking about these things can only worsen them. And there I go, getting uneasy thinking that I may have just said something grotesquely inaccurate, but my heart’s saying it’s true. In the last few years, Paul Peterson and Jason Gilmore talked to four suicide survivors, about their experiences, the lead up and the aftermath. The compilation of these talks is called The Next Day, illustrated by acclaimed artist John Porcellino, accompanied by an interactive online component co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada. So even if you can’t talk to anyone else about it, I’m sure you may be comfortable reading it.
There aren’t questions, sometimes there are answers, at times explanations, but mostly there are just moments. Appropriate snippets of conversation tied together through open themes like family, substances, highs and lows. It can feel like there are a lot of gaps, but another way to look at it, is as a grouping of journal entries rather than a streaming development.
What really pins The Next Day is Porcellino’s art. Simple but really well thought out, Porcellino’s magnificently striking interpretations of even seemingly insignificant quotations really push The Next Day forward as a creative endeavour over a sociological document. John is simple, and it may strike some as a bit close to the cartoonish side, but if it were to brand a more serious look it would seem more ridiculous. Instead the style comes off as gentle, easy, but poignant.
If there is one thing that the online component does better than the book does it is the storm theme. What the interactive form gives you is the sound, of their voices and a truly disturbing growing rumble of clouds in the distance, while illustrated in the book it’s a little too easy to dismiss.
The Next Day isn’t asking for your judgement. While you may be able to relate to many of the feelings and snippets of these four people, the spaces in between and the mix-tape of tragedies doesn’t let you forget that, no, this isn’t something for you to sync with. Depression and suicide are complicated, if this book was thicker than a residence floor’s reading list it still wouldn’t paint the whole picture. Instead The Next Day is frames, fragments and letters, a diary of carefully selected visions that draw together how human and easily triggered the darkest times can be.