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Macedonia Paperback – June 26, 2007

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Challenged by a good argument with a political-science professor, peace-studies undergrad Roberson went to Macedonia, the small Balkan country that has avoided war despite suffering stresses very similar to those of tumultuous Kosovo. She met and talked with academics, government and NGO officials, and ordinary citizens, trying to find out how Macedonia remained at peace. She came back with no firm answers, though she had discovered several earnest efforts devoted to resolving conflict and promoting national solidarity. She also heard disparagement of those attempts on all sides and plenty of prejudice against one another among ethnic Macedonians, Albanians, and Turks. She hung out with Western-educated natives and other young foreigners as intrigued by the country as she, and came back loving Macedonian hospitality and good-fellowship. Fortunately, she told her story to nonfiction comics author Pekar, who skillfully prepared the book's text and basic layout. Unfortunately, artist Piskor isn't as skillful. The figuration is stiff, perspective is often uncertain, and Piskor seems never to have been inside an airliner or a taxi. Intrinsically interesting content and excellent panel-by-panel planning are the book's saving strengths. Olson, Ray
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; First Edition edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345498992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345498991
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rhetor on January 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of serious comics -- Pekar's, Sacco's, Spiegelman's, Satrapi's -- and I had very high hopes for this Piskor/Pekar/Roberson collaboration. My hopes were disappointed. *Macedonia* is a case in which well-meaning people have tried to share an important story but, for lack of artistic vision or time commitment, have failed.

One has to imagine that Roberson, without any experience with the genre, wrote the entire script. Pekar tried to save it, but true salvation would have required a far greater investment of time, completely recasting the script as something far less "talky" and didactic. The book would have grown in length, too, in order to allow similar stories to be told through something other than shot-countershot frames of fillibuster.

To make a success of Macedonia would have required, at the very least, completely reconceptualizing the opening sequence. Page after page, the Heather character essentially lectures her non-responsive boyfriend about her interest in Macedonian politics.

In fairness to Pekar, Roberson's long narrative isn't exactly the "pithy vignettes on life" format for which Pekar is best known. Sure, Pekar wrote at greater length of Robert McNeil (*Unsung Hero*), but that's the exception proving the rule. Moreover, the McNeil project was likely initially conceived as a comic. Though Pekar did encourage Roberson early on to take notes for a possible comic book, she seems not to have approached the concept through the lens of comics.

The book does have its moments, however. Piskor ably presents Balkan history -- clearly the toughest assignment given -- and he moves admirably from those moments, to depicting Eastern European architecture, to Heather and friends dancing at a local disco. It is when Roberson's/Pekar's torrent of conversation finally slows, or when the words can be presented through voice-over, that Piskor finally finds a quite moment to do something more artistically organic.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Howard on July 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
(Disclaimer: This reviewer has been a consultant in Macedonia on an NGO educational activity associated with the Ohrid Agreement.)

Harvey Pekar's and Heather Roberson's "Macedonia: What does it take to stop a war" is two books in one. One book is about the country Macedonia. I have been there a few times, and since this is a graphic novel, I wanted to see how the country was pictured. The pictures don't misrepresent the nation, but don't capture it either. There are not many iconic images of the capital, Skopje, but the illustrator Ed Piskor has drawn one on the cover. However, if one were in this city square and faced in the opposite direction, one would see the older section of the city with minarets and ruins of a Turkish fort. Interiors--small, run-down apartments, internet cafes, bars--are convincing. But Macedonia is largely rural and mountainous, and those views are missing in this graphic novel which takes place in cities.

The other book in "Macedonia" is an attempt to show how a political arrangement called the Ohrid Agreement decentralized the national bureaucracies and transferred some power to minorities, primarily Albanians, and thereby avoided armed conflict. The main character, Heather, an American student, goes to Macedonia to research how peace, rather than war, can be intentionally implemented. She talks to a lot of people and records her reflections in a portable recorder. Unfortunately, this is where the graphic novel falters. There are a lot of rectangles of people talking. It seems as if one is reading a play without any clever or insightful lines performed under a strobe light. The text can be dense and the visuals unexciting. While the presentation may make some readers struggle, however, the dialog captures the simultaneous doubts and expectations of the Macedonians as they shift from belief in the future Ohrid holds to discomfort about the present adjustments which the Ohrid Agreement demands.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Gogovski on August 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I bought this comic-book 'cos I wanted to see how my country Macedonia was pictured.I was suprised how well did the autor knew the situation in Macedonia and the Balkan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Rhudy on June 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of the biggest problems with this book is that it is poorly structured as a comic--the narrator, Heather, spends the bulk of the comic lecturing either her boyfriend or the reader. There's space for background, sure, but if so much of the comic is going to be devoted to drawings of the narrator's face alone, why make the book a comic? This is not to say that panels in which we see other people, or actual movement, are much better; the drawings are poor, and the wacky facial expressions and contortions characters go through (surely people do not have joints in the all the places Ed Piskor provides them) are distracting.

I had some doubts, too, about the depth of this book. Although I didn't expect this to be a definitive exploration of Macedonian history, a number of details--that Heather Roberson travels to Macedonia for an undergraduate research project that seems conceived on something of a whim, that she doesn't speak either Macedonian or Albanian, that she is only in the country for a month--made me wonder how this book made it to publication. Surely someone with more experience in the region could have worked on such a book? Instead of an authoritative exploration of Macedonian politics & history, the reader is given a narrator who is often learning things at the same pace as the reader. This could work, but doesn't. The comic's structure, drawings & story all leave a lot to be desired.
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