Pantheon Books

What distinguishes graphic novels (aka ‘big fat comic books’) from other books is how completely the page registers movements of the maker’s hand. Before we begin the business of reading, we look, and what we see is not margin-to-margin Helvetica or Times New Roman: it’s the mark of the makers, be it Alison Bechdel or Kristen Radtke or Mandy Ord. We might even think of the making of comic books as being closer to letter writing than novel writing. Accustoming ourselves to the style of a particular graphic novelist (‘Aha! That’s how Bechdel depicts euphoria!’) is a large part of the pleasure of reading comics – the business of aligning one’s own visual point of view with the maker’s. Perhaps this is why autobiographical works have been such a vital force behind the rebirth of comic books as ‘graphic novels’.

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Undertaking fieldwork in Iceland, anthropologist Hugh Raffles was combing a beach when he noticed, and became transfixed by, a ‘large rectangular black stone’. So transfixed, in fact, that he decided to take it back to New York. On his return to his car, everything was in chaos. The alarm went off, piercing the tranquil landscape; the ‘door open’ icon flashed, despite all the doors being closed. Raffles began to drive, but the alarm and blinking light were unceasing. So he pulled over, gently placed the stone by the side of the road and drove on in relieved silence. Upon hearing this story, his Icelandic friends laughed knowingly. ‘Everything is alive,’ they said. Later, poring over archival material, Raffles discovered that the coastline on which his brush with the supernatural had occurred was known for causing chaos with ships’ navigational instruments, ‘perhaps because of high levels of magnetite grains in the basalt’.

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After The Neocons by Francis Fukuyama & Ethical Realism by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman

by
March 2007, no. 289

Beyond American failure in Iraq lies a second, deeper failure. America’s Iraq project was always intended by its proponents not just to fix Iraq and transform the Middle East, but also to demonstrate a new grand policy concept for the twenty-first century. This was the Bush Doctrine, enshrining the now-familiar ideas of the neo-conservatives: America’s power, especially its military power, is omnipotent; its values and institutions are universally desired and universally applicable; hence America’s destiny – and after 9/11 even its very survival – requires it to use this immense power, pre-emptively and unilaterally if necessary, to reshape the world in America’s image. The neo-cons themselves called it a vision for a New American Century.

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